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Online therapy for autism

Goda Brzozauskaite
  • Apr 25, 2022
  • 5 min read
happy parents with their autistic child

Autism is a lifelong mental health condition that is fairly prevalent in children in the US, and is increasingly being diagnosed in adults. However, symptoms can be significantly alleviated through therapy. Online therapy for autism is increasingly being sought out, and is an effective, comfortable, and affordable way to reach for help. This article will look at the different types of therapy for autism.

Therapies that are used for treatment of autism range from applied behavior analysis, cognitive behavioral therapy, speech therapy, verbal behavior therapy, and relationship development intervention. All of these interventions are helpful in managing the symptoms of autism, both in children and adults.

Online therapy is becoming increasingly available and is effective in the management of autism and its symptoms. Online therapy is readily available, and is a more accommodating and comfortable method of addressing autism symptoms.

Applied behavior analysis (ABA)

What does it look like?

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a form of therapy that purports to use its techniques to produce discernible changes in behavior. Its principles are based on concepts of operant conditioning and classical conditioning.  

ABA modifies behavior by first evaluating the operational relationship between a targeted behavior and its surrounding environment. ABA also strives to create socially acceptable substitutes for undesirable behavior.   

Due to ABA being firmly rooted in behaviorism, it has come under scrutiny, mostly due to its use of aversive techniques as a method of punishment to reduce undesirable behavior. However, these techniques have been routinely phased out and regulated by the FDA, which has recently banned the use of electrical stimulation methods for aggressive behavior.

There are several different types of ABA, which we will unpack below.

Discrete trial training (DTT)

Discrete trial training (DTT) makes use of direct directions and reinforcers to create clear strategies that form new skills. This is done by breaking down a desired behavior or outcome and approaching it in a segmented fashion.

What this means is that once the person receiving this therapy produces the desired behavior or response, they will obtain positive reinforcement in the form of a reward. However, if the preferred reaction is not produced, they will not be rewarded.

Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI)

EIBI uses the same mechanisms as DTT (rewarding a desired behavior, and not rewarding an undesired behavior), but then goes one step further, in synthesizing and simplifying the skills learned into a natural setting. This leg of therapy is also referred to as natural environment training.

This intervention is often used on children, for long intervals (30-40 hours per week), and has been found to be effective in teaching children basic living skills, language and academic skills, but is also helpful for adults.

Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)

EDSM therapy is only available for children between the ages of 1 – 2 years old. This method makes use of play actions to build language, social and cognitive abilities.

How does ABA help people with autism?

All methods of ABA focus on autism disorder’s fundamental shortfall – social skills and interaction. Social skills are broken down into manageable parts, taught and rehearsed with rewards to encourage replication of the behavior. Additionally, individuals get to practice what they have learned in a natural setting, to rehearse the required behaviors.

The rehearsal of behaviors gives autism sufferers ample opportunity to practice desired behaviors in an environment that is comfortable for them, and where they do not feel pressured and are able to perform the desired behaviors without prompts.

This aids autism sufferers in navigating everyday social interactions, reducing stimming, and supporting language and communication skills.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

What does it look like?

CBT centers around changing maladaptive thinking patterns to elicit change in behavior and emotional affect. CBT also goes further in changing the maladaptive relationship we may have with our own thinking.

How does CBT help people with autism?

People with autism may struggle with the meaning of difficulties they face. This means that they could feel bad about themselves for having a complication such as communication issues, over-and-above having to deal with the specific difficulty itself. In short, behaviors may create anxiety for an autism sufferer purely because of the meaning that is put onto them.

CBT is helpful in this regard, because it prompts change in the way autism sufferers think about their disorder, which in turn may help ease the symptoms of autism itself. Cognitive behavioral therapy for autism would make use of relaxation techniques, which can radically enhance an autism sufferer’s quality of life.

Speech Therapy

What does it look like?

Speech therapy begins with an assessment from a speech and language therapist, who will be able to identify challenges in the individual’s communications, as well as strengths. From this, the speech therapist is able to create goals for speech therapy.

Goals for speech therapy can be learning non-verbal skills like gestures and signs, refining spoken language, or even learning another way to communicate (such as through a computer). Speech therapy can involve skill development such as understanding body language, matching emotions with facial expressions, and making purer speech sounds, to name a few.

How does speech therapy help people with autism?

Speech therapy can be extremely helpful for people with autism, as one of the primary concerns of autism spectrum disorder is difficulties with language and communication. The goal of speech therapy is to aid people with autism to improve their social, verbal, and nonverbal communication.

Speech therapy can also help people with autism work on social skills, and can help adults with learning appropriate behavior at work, and can help children with communicating at school.

Verbal Behavior Therapy

What does it look like?

This type of therapy demonstrates language and communication. Specifically, language is learned in this therapy by linking words with their purposes. In this way, the person with autism can learn that words can aid them in getting required objects or outcomes. In other words, verbal behavior therapy teaches people with autism why we use words, and how they create ideas.

How does verbal behavior therapy help people with Autism?

Again, as one of the core deficits in autism spectrum disorder is a difficulty with language and communication, verbal behavior therapy can aid in autistic people being able to overcome this challenge by learning to communicate effectively.

Verbal behavior therapy goes beyond merely teaching words, and links words to ideas, requests and a larger communication sphere which can greatly improve the quality of life for autistic people.

Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)

What does it look like?

RDI is another therapy that is focused on one of the fundamental deficits of autism spectrum disorder – interaction and social skills. RDI is centered around teaching patients to think in a flexible and adaptable manner and teaches patients to participate in social relationships with others.

How does relationship development intervention help people with autism?

RDI is able to help people with autism to create personal relationships, which is done by reinforcing the fundamentals of social connections. It also aids in teaching people with autism to create an emotional bond with another, and to share experiences with another.

The Bottom Line

Autism spectrum disorder presents a varying set and degree of difficulties for sufferers and is a lifelong condition. However, symptoms are manageable through a large variety of therapies, which can be conducted both in-person and online. Therapy for autistic adults and children is largely available.

Therapy for autism ranges from applied behavior analysis, cognitive behavioral therapy, speech therapy, verbal behavior therapy and relationship development intervention. What makes each of these therapies effective for the management of autism is that they focus primarily on the core deficits of autism: a struggle with communication, social skills, and interactions.

Online therapy is an increasingly viable option for any kind of treatment, and this goes for autism management as well. Online counseling is more affordable, flexible and may even make individuals with autism more comfortable, as it can be conducted via text or audio chat rather than in-person.

Online counseling is effective for the management of autism, and is more easily accessible. If you are considering online therapy for assistance in managing your autism symptoms, we can help.

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