What is Hippotherapy?
This can be defined as treatment or therapy that is aided by a horse. When a horse walks, the movement of its hips simulate the same type of movement seen in the human pelvis. As an autistic child sits on a walking horse, they receive a lot of sensory input that is rhythmic and repetitive and similar to the child walking. This can be very enjoyable and stimulating. A therapist can then utilize physical, occupational, and speech therapy while the child enjoys the rythym of the horse's gait. Studies have shown that hippotherapy can improve muscle tone, coordination, balance, and equilibrium skills in children with autism.
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What is Speech Therapy?
As indicated earlier, one of the hallmark signs of autism is the lack of or difficulty with both verbal and non-verbal communication. This is where a speech therapist can be extremely useful. A speech therapist will use games and toys to engage an autistic child. If a child does not talk, one area that can be concentrated on is nonverbal communication. The therapist can teach sign language or use the PECS system( communication using pictures) as a way for the child to communicate. Electronic talking devices can also be used.
If the child is partially verbal, the pronounciation of words can be worked on as well as the meaning of the words. Conversational skills can be addressed. How, to whom, and when is it appropriate to say something.
What is ABA?
ABA ( Applied Behavioral Analysis) is a technique that was introduced to the autisitic community in the mid to late 1980's when Dr. Ivan Lovaas at UCLA used it to teach austitic individuals. The basis of ABA is to ask a child to perform a certain task and if the child complies they get a positive reward that is meaningful for that child. When positive behaviors are followed by meaningful rewards, the behaviors are more likely to be repeated. Negative behaviors are not rewarded at all. Through several repititions, a child can learn what appropriate behavior is expected of them. Positive behaviors that can be taught include skills for independence, communication, and socialization.
What is Occupational Therapy?
The Goal of Occupational therapy is to help people live as independently as possible . Occupational therapies help autistic children learn to perform the activities that are needed for everyday life ( dressing, writing , drawing, playing, eating, bathing , etc). Many autistic children have difficulty in performing these everyday tasks because of deficits in both fine motor skills and gross motor skills. Fine motor skills are needed for detail oriented work involving the hands and gross motor skills are needed for such activities as jumping, running, climbing, etc. An occupational therapist will evaluate an autistic child and come up with a variety of activities and games that will nuture a child's development in areas where the child is deficient.
What is Physical Therapy?
Many autistic children have low muscle tone and deficiencies in gross motor skills , fine motor skills and coordination. These deficits can limit day to day functions as well as interfere with social interactions. If all the children on the playground can play sports and the autistic child cannot this can be just another challenge to social interaction. This is where the physical therapist comes in. After evaluating a child's weak areas a program of exercises, activities, and physical games can be tailored to meet the deficits. The ultimate goal is to increase strength, mobility and coordination.
What is RDI?
RDI is an acronym for relationship development intervention. Because autistic children have difficulty with both verbal and non-verbal communication, making friends and establishing relationships can be very difficult or impossible. This is where RDI comes in. RDI was developed by Dr. Steven Gutstein, a clinical psychologist from Houston Texas and Dr. Rachelle Sheely . RDI is a parent based intervention that is designed to teach the fundamentals of relationship development. Dr Gutstein has looked at typical childhood development and the lessons that need to be learned as children mature. The RDI program teaches these lessons to autistic children through activities and games with the parents.
What is Floortime?
Floortime is an approach developed by Dr. Stanley Greenspan M.D. and Serena Wieder, PH.D. It is an approach where parents or therapists sit down on the floor with a child for 20-30 minute sessions. The parent or therapist will play and interact with the child by following the child's lead. By doing this , you are more likely to engage the child in an activity that they enjoy. The ultimate goal is to teach the autistic child the developmental milestones that they have missed. Click here to find out about Dr Greenspan's book The Child with Special Needs
What is Music Therapy?
Music therapy uses music, which can be an enjoyable and relaxing medium, to first capture the attention of an autistic child Once the child is engaged in the music , then strides can be made in the areas of communication, physical therapy, and sensory processing using the music as a therapeutic backdrop. There are many recent studies published in the journal of Music Therapy that show positive benefits of music. The benefits seen in autistic children were increases in language used, an increased understanding of emotions , and more social awareness when music therapy was involved .
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