Alternative treatments for autism

Teachers and parents of children on the autism spectrum are frequently looking for "alternative treatments for autism." Perhaps the student is not behaving the way other children do.

Behavior challenges or behavior "differences" are frequently the reasons caregivers seek more treatment options. What do you really need?

Answering questions at a workshop
I was presenting at a workshop where we were discussing how to deal with behavior problems. 

And we were talking about looking at the world from the student’s point of view. Answering questions like, “What could the student be thinking?” Or “What did the situation look like from the student’s point of view?” Good questions.

Then I asked one more question
I encouraged the participants to fill in the blank. They needed to think of a student they worked with and then finish the sentence from that student’s point of view.

The question: If only people understood ___________.

Here are some of the answers from workshop participants. . . .

  • It takes me a long time to process what you are telling me
  • How exhausting it is for me to focus for any length of time
  • How sensitive I am to all sensory stimulation
  • I want something and I don’t know how to ask for it
  • How hard it is to sit still & attend
  • How I feel when I can’t tell you something
  • Why I don't get off the bus
  • I want to please you
  • Why I act the way I do

How would you answer that question?
The more we can understand what is going on inside of the minds of our students, we'll have clues how to help them. That's the way we get a lot of our answers.  

Some of our therapists and educators have received special training to be able to do that.

For example: Occupational Therapists have learned how to interpret "How sensitive I am to all sensory stimulation." Understanding that leads to alternative treatments for autism students who have sensory sensitivities.

Another example: "It takes me a long time to process what you are telling me" can lead the Speech Therapist to develop some visual strategies to help that autistic child process communication information better.

This is important to understand
Alternative treatments for autism is not about finding a "magic bullet" that suddenly "fixes" everything. More accurately, it refers to exploring the student's needs from different perspectives.

We have learned a lot
Over the last 40 years, we have learned a lot about ASD. Autism is not just an educational issue. Communication, sensory systems, medical, bio-medical, genetic, dietary, environmental and many other domains have contributed to our understanding of autism.

Since it's acknowledged that autism is not a single disorder with a single cause, we desperately need to recognize that solutions for students need to be individual. What helps one student is not the "cure" for everyone.

But solutions require two important things
First, we need all those researchers and explorers in the various domains to keep sharing their findings.

Second, those of us on the front lines need to become excellent communication partners so we can read those cues and signals that are difficult to interpret but give us important information.

Do those of us who live with and teach children with autism have the ability to understand what they are thinking? Can we figure out how they understand? Alternative treatments for autism might really include different ways for me as a communication partner to interact with children with ASD. Visual strategies offer me one alternative.

It's good to remember that alternative treatments for autism include making changes in how I participate as a communication partner to understand each of these individuals and their communication needs better.

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  1. Yes, every child is different they have their own way of processing things, I have found out to give a child alternatives like trying different ways of doing things giving choices and to prompt a child before leaving home and going some where makes a difference in the way they will act in the community never force a child that is on the Autism Spectrum because that leads to self esteem they have no control over and that leads to a meltdown or Behavior.

  2. Hi Linda: I read your newsletter concerning the question and what the ASD person wished people knew. You said that the more we understand what’s going on in the ASD child’s mind the better we are at helping them. I thought of one issue that I ran into quite a bit when Caity was younger and it would have been “ if only people understood that I am not seeing the overall big picture and purpose to this activity so I’m not interested”.
    I ran into that with things she wasn’t interested in such as math. I knew she had a great memory and was quite capable of memorizing times table but she just wasn’t interested and could care less. I had to give the math facts a purpose for her. She was memorizing year book faces so I copied and cut them out and made math flash cards with yearbook faces. It gave the activity purpose and she quickly learned all her times tables. It was the same with writing. She had horrible handwriting that was illegible but when she was allowed to practice her favorite presidents name instead of her own name, her writing greatly improved and she began connecting to the purpose of writing and why she needed to practice and write neatly. Just a thought I figured I’d mention.

  3. If only people would understand that there are little things I need to do before I can focus on trying to figure out what you want me to do. Tell me only1-2 steps of the process at a time. I may need lots of extra time, so please keep me informed about what I need to do (5-10 minutes) ahead of time so I can prepare myself. Show me the time line on a clock, if I have to wait or so I know when I have to start the first step, if appropriate.

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