Which types of speech, occupational and physical therapies are used in the treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?

Updated: Sep 30, 2019
  • Author: James Robert Brasic, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Caroly Pataki, MD  more...
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Therapies that are reported to help some individuals with autism include the following:

  • Assisted communication - Using keyboards, letter boards, word boards, and other devices (eg, the Picture Exchange Communication System [149] ), with the assistance of a therapist

  • Auditory integration training - A procedure in which the individual listens to specially prepared sounds through headphones

  • Sensory integration therapy - A treatment for motor and sensory motor problems typically administered by occupational therapists

  • Exercise and physical therapy - Exercise is often therapeutic for individuals with autistic disorder; a regular program of activity prescribed by a physical therapist may be helpful

In addition, social skills training helps some children with autism spectrum disorder, including those with comorbid anxiety disorders. [7] Children with autism spectrum disorder and comorbid attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may not benefit from social skills training. [7]

In a 2-year randomized, controlled trial, children who received the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), a comprehensive developmental behavioral intervention for improving outcomes of toddlers diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, showed significant improvements in IQ, adaptive behavior, and autism diagnosis compared with children who received intervention commonly available in the community. [150] A follow-up electroencephalographic study showed normalized patterns of brain activity in the ESDM group. [151]

In contrast, a 12-week study of parent-delivered ESDM intervention found no effect on child outcomes compared with usual community treatment. However, starting intervention at an earlier age and providing a greater number of intervention hours both related to the degree of improvement in children's behavior. [152]

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