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Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH)
TEACCH is a structured teaching approach based on the idea that the environment should be adapted to the child with autism, not the other way around. The goal of the TEACCH approach is to provide the child with the necessary skills to understand his or her world and other people’s behavior. Because TEACCH tends to build upon skills children with autism already have, some families may see it as more congenial or “congruent” approach than the more structured interventions associated with ABA.
Picture Exchange Communication Systems (PECS)
One of the main areas affected by autism is the child’s ability to communicate. PECS helps get basic language underway as well as provides a way of communicating for those children that do not talk. PECS uses ABA-based methods to teach children to exchange a picture for something they want—such as an item or activity. This approach enables a child with autism to communicate more easily.
Occupational Therapy
Children with autism may benefit from working with an occupational therapist. An occupational therapist is a trained and licensed healthcare professional who evaluates the impact of the disorder on the activities of a child or adult with autism at home, school, and work. The occupational therapist works with other members of the team to reduce physical and psycho-social disabilities through activities with specific goals.
Physical Therapy
A physical therapist helps children with autism to develop muscle strength, coordination, and motor skills.
Understanding Autism
Autism or, more commonly today, autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability characterized by deficits in: 1) verbal and nonverbal communication, 2) social interaction, and 3) the presence of repetitive behaviors or interests. Generally diagnosed before the age of 3 the severity of the impairment can range from relatively mild resulting in a diagnosis within the spectrum of Asperger Syndrome to more severe leading to a diagnosis of more classic autism. If a child has symptoms of either of these disorders, but does not meet the specific criteria of either, the diagnosis is called Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).
Autism spectrum disorders are found in all cultures and across all socio-economic groups with the ratio boys to girls with ASD being 4 to 1. In the past 30 years the prevalence rate of ASD has skyrocketed. Recent prevalence estimates indicate that autism spectrum disorders occur in 1 out of every 150 children born (CDC 2007) highlighting the facts that autism spectrum disorders are not rare and the importance of effective intervention is critical on a personal, familial and societal level. Why the increase? No one knows for sure. Some epidemiologists point to a broader definition of autism and an increasing awareness among medical professionals as key contributing factors. Others consider the potential impact of environmental factors (e.g., toxins) as a contributing cause. As more and more research is funded and completed this question may soon be answered.
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