Let’s Talk About How We Diagnose And Treat Autism Part III: Treatment of More Severe Autism

Autism Treatment

Written by Dr. John Carosso

Where we left off

We spent the past few posts discussing the diagnosis and treatment of mild autism. By the way, your subsequent comments and questions have been remarkable and very thought-provoking; thank you. At this point, you already know the general signs and symptoms of autism (if not, just check-out any number of my prior posts at helpforyourchild.com), so let’s transition to a discussion about the treatment of more notable autism. In that respect, as a parent, if you have good practitioners to help, that’s great, but you don’t want to be completely dependent on therapists for your child’s well-being. If you know the following two approaches, you will, in fact, be quite prepared and capable.

Two diverse but complementary approaches that are second to none

You’ve undoubtedly heard of ‘applied behavioral analysis’ (ABA) and that ABA is ‘best-practices’ when it comes to the treatment of autism. However, it’s important to note that ABA is a systematic approach to developing and implementing treatment methods, not a specific strategy per se. In any case, I’ve written about ABA in prior posts (to read one, click here) and how it is used as a foundation for the two specific strategies described below.

Discrete Trial Teaching

A specific approach I highly recommend, based in ABA, is something called discrete trial teaching. In my opinion, there is nothing better to teach specific skills including mimicking, labeling, requesting, categorizing, and the beginning of conversational skills among other things. I’ve presented and created videos about this approach on my Youtube channel and on another of our sites, appletreeinstitute.com. This approach is structured, systematic, regimented and predominately done at a table (sometimes referred to as ‘table-time’). There are countless other videos on YouTube describing this approach; check them out!! You won’t find a better method to teach specific skills to your child.

The Early Start Denver Model

As much as Discrete Trial Teaching is formal, systematic, and regimented, the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) is free-flowing, in-the-moment, fun, and relationship-building, with strategies that are designed to do just that, build your relationship with your child!! This is especially important in that a primary sign of autism is an aloof quality and a general lack of social engagement. This approach takes everyday events and routines such as getting dressed, eating a meal, changing a diaper, clean-up, reading a story, playing with a toy, and leverages them to become dynamic relationship-building activities that make the parent “center-stage” in the endeavor and in the child’s life. Given that, quite often, a parent’s number-one concern is that they can’t get their child with autism to properly engage with them, this approach is vital. There too are excellent videos describing this approach on YouTube, as well as the excellent resource, The Early Start for Your Child with Autism, by Rogers, Dawson, & Vismara.

Wrap-Up

So, we talked about DTT and the ESDM as two very different but complementary approaches to build and develop both specific skills and, more generally, your relationship with your child. It’s well worth your time to learn about both approaches.

Don’t hesitate

If you wish to learn more about these approaches and have questions about the specific elements, don’t hesitate to reach-out and email me at jcarosso@cpcwecare.com. God bless.

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Dr. John Carosso

Dr. Carosso has more than 30 years of experience as a licensed Child Clinical Psychologist and Certified School Psychologist working in private, inpatient, outpatient, residential, school, and home settings. He is Clinical Director of Community Psychiatric Centers (cpcwecare.com), a licensed Behavioral Health Outpatient Clinic, and operates both the Autism Center of Pittsburgh (autismcenterofpittsburgh.com) and the Dyslexia Diagnostic and Treatment Center (dyslexiatreaters.com).