With the recent discovery that a molecule in broccoli may alleviate several symptoms of autism, it is essential to look at all of the other developments that can truly help individuals struggling with the disorder. In particular, certain therapies are becoming increasingly more prevalent in the U.S. and internationally due to the positive responses that they have received.
For example, many parents have seen great benefits from having their children participate in animal therapy. Pet ownership has been known to improve social functioning skills, and furthermore, children with ASD who own a pet have been noted to develop comforting skills and a better ability to share. Children with ASD have also experienced improvements in behavior through assisted therapy programs such as horseback riding. Sara Gee, a riding instructor, states, “For autistic children, we find the benefits are many. The simple aim of the therapy is to teach children to sit quietly and enjoy the ride whilst taking part in exercises that encourage listening and following, color recognition, counting, and making choices.”
Another successful therapy method is CBT – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This therapy is a psychological intervention that is used to change how people think and behave. This therapy is based on the principle that how people think and feel has a direct relation to how they will behave. People with autism often get stuck in the same pattern of thinking or responding, so CBT uses various techniques to help them become more aware of how they think, therefore changing how they respond. Therapists have made this method more ASD-friendly by making certain exercises more repetitive, as well as more visual. For example, instead of asking a child how to rate their anxiety on a scale of 1 to 10, the therapist uses a visual image of a scale, where children can go to the image and illustrate their feelings.
Lastly, many parents have seen great success from Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). This method of therapy breaks down actions into small steps that are easier for the child to understand. Each step is taught through repetition, with specialists providing intensive training of up to 35 hours per week. Families across the U.S. have reported incredible progress in their children, as they were noted to be significantly more expressive, as well as have a better ability to spontaneously engage in imaginative play, as well as have a better understanding of how to interpret the gestures of others.