Therapy Methods


The Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

The types of training, therapies and treatments that are available for ASD are very varied and new ones are being added to the list with each passing day. The Tohum Autism Foundation website has information on some of the most current and widely used methods and techniques.

The benefits of any training, therapy or treatment must be established through scientifically verifiable results. However, the fact that research exists on a given method does not necessarily prove the efficacy of said method. For research results to evince the effects of a method such research should adhere to two standards:

  1. The research must be empirical,*
  2. The research must be published in a peer-reviewed, scientific publication.**

The training, therapy or treatments that have been presented in the Tohum Foundation Website have been judged on the above two standards as follows:

* Empirical research is conducted using control groups and depends on establishing cause and effect.

** Peer-reviewed publications are those which every article has been peer-reviewed by more than one specialist in the particular area.

Good: There are numerous experimental research studies which show that the method has had a positive outcome on children with autism.

Average: There is only limited experimental research showing that this method has had a positive outcome on children with autism.

Poor: There is no experimental research showing the positive effects of this technique on children with autism or the research which has been done shows no positive effect on children with autism.


Sensory Integration

Sensory Integration Therapy assumes that children with autism struggle with perceiving, processing and interpreting information coming from the sense organs. Therefore, it attempts to eliminate these problems and develop sensory integration skills in order to increase mental function and thereby reduce behavioral problems. Commonly utilized sensory integration activities are: body-brushing, squeezing knees and elbows together, swinging in a hammock, etc. Also, a sensory diet is applied. Body socks and weighted vests are examples of sensory diet activities.

Sensory integration has been used widely as a therapy method for autism since the 1970s. However it does not have sufficient basis in science. The lack of compiled comprehensive research and convincing research output show its shortcomings (Baranek, 2002).


Sources:

Baranek, G.T (2002). Efficacy of sensory and motor interventions for children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 32, 397-422.

Escalano, A., et al., (2001). Brief report: Improvements in the behavior of children with autism following massage therapy. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 31, 513-516.

NAC (2009). National Standards Report. USA: NAC.


Evaluating this Method:

zayıfPoor: There is no experimental research showing any positive effects of this technique on children with autism or the research that has been done shows no positive effect on children with autism.

Auditory Integration Training

Auditory Integration Training (AIT) was developed in the 1990s by Bérard in France and was used under the names of “Tomatis”, “Earobics”, “Fast For Words”. In Auditory Integration Training, firstly frequencies that the child is sensitive to are determined and during sessions, music which has been purged of these frequencies are played through headphones. There are research studies with conflicting conclusions: some are claiming that AIT reduces the severe sensitivity to certain sounds the others propose that it has no impact or increases behavioral issues in equal part.

Sinha et al., conducted six research projects that reviewed the data in 2006 and came up with a systemic compilation which shows that there were process problems. Correspondingly, they concluded that AIT had no scientifically proven effect on children with autism.


Sources:

NAC (2009). National Standards Report. USA: NAC.


Evaluating this Method:

zayıfPoor: There is no experimental studies showing the positive effects of this technique on children with autism or the research which has been done shows no positive effect on children with autism.

Music and Dance Therapy

Music and Dance Therapy involves singing, playing an instrument, and techniques for dancing to music. It is applied by certified therapists. The expected benefits of music therapy are:

  1. Emotional bonding: Music Therapy activities are expected to develop bonds between the therapist and the child as well as with others.
  2. Increased verbal and physical language use: Music is expected to increase the desire to communicate.
  3. Reduced behavioral problems: Visual, sensory and auditory stimuli are perceived in combination while playing an instrument and dancing. These stimuli are thought to increase the fine and gross psychomotor skills and self-awareness, and reduce inappropriate behavior.
  4. Feelings of success: Playing an instrument, singing a song or dancing can help the child achieve the feeling of success. The work on the effects of music therapy on children with autism are mostly unscientific. However, positive effects of music therapy have been part of a meta-analysis (i.e. the re-analysis of available data) (Whipple, 2004).

Sources:

NAC (2009). National Standards Report. USA: NAC.

Whipple, J. (2004). Music in intervention for children and adolescents with autism: A meta-analysis. Journal of Music Therapy, 41, 90-105.


Evaluating this method

zayıfAverage: There is only very limited experimental research showing that this method has a positive outcome on children with autism.

Art Therapy

In Art Therapy pictures, ceramics, sculpture, and similar art forms are used to help the child to express him/herself and through this to achieve emotional relaxation. In other words, art therapy allows the child to articulate formerly unexpressed thoughts and emotions through channels of artistic production.

The main goal of any therapy under the umbrella of art is to allow the aesthetic skills to be accessed and brought forth through a safe and uncritical environment. The essence of artistic activity is to engage effectively with an object, to take risks and to allow the individuals to express themselves. Engagement in art is thought to be beneficial for the cognitive development of objects and volumes, the sensation of smells and colors, and physical coordination. Accordingly, both an awareness of aesthetics and the cultivation of various skills are expected to be developed. Art is expected to encourage the child which is hoped to result in opening the channels of communication.

Further research on the effects of art therapy on children is needed.


Sources:

  1. a) www.asatonline.org/treatment/treatments/art.htm

Evaluating this Method:

zayıfPoor: There is no experimental research showing positive effects of this technique on children with autism or the research which has been done shows no positive effect on children with autism.

Drama Therapy

The goal of Dramatherapy is to borrow from performing arts activities like role-playing or story-telling to prompt emotional development and self-expression. Dramatherapy can turn inappropriate behavior into various creative movements. One of the expected benefits of Dramatherapy is the individuals finding their creative capacity. Using role-play and objects as tools, attempts are made to form relationships with people.

Further research on the effects of dramatherapy on children is needed.


Sources:

  1. a) www.dramatherapycentral.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=a rticle&id=137:drama-therapy-with-clients-on-the-autism-spectrum&catid=56:articles&Itemid=195
  2. b) www.researchautism.net/autism_treatments_therapies_intervention. ikml?print&ra=58&infolevel=4

Evaluating this Method:

zayıfPoor: There is no experimental research showing the positive effects of this technique on children with autism or the research which has been done shows no positive effect on children with autism.

Dolphin-Assisted Therapy

Dolphin-Assisted Therapy (DAT) is utilized chiefly in the US, Israel, Russia, and Mexico, as well as in Turkey. The number of therapy centers is increasing exponentially. These centers allow children to interact with dolphins first from the docks and in time from inside the water. There is evidence that DAT positively affects children with disabilities and some of this evidence is scientific. However, specialists agree that these research studies have procedural errors. Thus, the scientific community for the most part agrees that there is no reliable experimental research proving that DAT has a positive effect on children with autism.

In addition to the above, DAT has drawn criticism from environmental (animal rights) organizations. Many organizations are extremely averse to dolphins becoming a source of income and campaigning to free these animals.


Sources:

  1. a) www.dolphinassistedtherapy.com
  2. b) asatonline.org/treatment/treatments/animal.htm
  3. c) www.autismsciencefoundation.org/what-is-autism/autism-diagnosis/ beware-non-evidencebased-treatments

Evaluating this method:

zayıfPoor: There is no experimental research showing the positive effects of this technique on children with autism or the research which has been done shows no positive effect on children with autism.