Special Schools Therapy/Programs: Effectively Treating Autism Spectrum Disorders
According to Al Shirian and Al Dera (2015, p. 604), Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a lifelong malady that mainly affects a person’s ability to relate or communicate with their community. ASD is an umbrella whose symptoms vary widely and includes other cognitive conditions such as Asperger’s syndrome. However, people with autism generally cannot discern other people’s motivations and thoughts and as such, are not able to respond appropriately to their environment and formulate relationships with other individuals (Winerman, 2004, p. 48). Winerman (2004, p. 48) further states that many individuals with autism tend to have associated mental retardation and language delays, with other people possessing average and above average intelligence, but still with communication problems.
It is imperative to note that people with ASD do not always manifest in the same way. Al Shirian and Al Dera (2015, p. 604) assert that features of ASD are variable with severity ranging from mild to severe; a phenomenon that is sometimes associated with poor clinical results. One of the most controversial topics when it comes to ASD is treatment types, how they are selected and utilized and their effectiveness in treating ASD. According to Matson and Williams (2015, p. 21), Autism Spectrum Disorder is contemplated treatable. However, some interventions have immense empirical espouse while other interventions lack empirical support. In as much as there are vast discordances in the evidence base for treatment techniques or interventions, there is meager correlation between what type of treatment works and what treatments parents or guardians select for their autistic children. This paper explores key interventions or treatment techniques for Autism spectrum disorder, that is, medical therapy or medication, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and special school therapy. While medical therapy or medication, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and special school therapy are the most utilized behavioral therapies for treating ASD, the special school therapy is the most effective intervention given that it not only provides effective treatment but also teaches autistic children.
Treatment Techniques/Interventions-Special Schools Therapy/Programs: Effectively Treating Autism Spectrum Disorders
Medication is the most commonly utilized treatment method for ASD despite the fact that there is meager data in existence to espouse its utilization, particularly for the critical symptoms of the disorder. Moreover, drugs used for suppressing the symptoms of ASD and aiding autistic children in communication, particularly antipsychotic medications tend to result in debilitating and chronic side effects as reported by (Matson and Williams, 2015, p. 22). On other hand, the main money and time-intensive treatment that parents normally request for their autistic children is based on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) (Winerman, 2004, p. 48). ABA therapy is based on the concept that when individuals are, autistic or otherwise, are rewarded for a certain demeanor, they are likely to repeat that demeanor. As such, in ABA treatment, the therapist usually gives the child a stimulus, for instance, a request to sit down or a question, along with the right response. The therapist utilizes praise or an incentive like food or toys or attention to reward an autistic child for completing the task or repeating the right answer, with any other response being shunned (Winerman, 2004, p. 48). Nonetheless, ABA is criticized for being costly and turning autistic children into robots among others criticisms. The intervention that evinces immense positive results in terms of aiding autistic children to communicate well and from meaningful relationships with others is special schools therapy. Nonetheless, in order to have a vivid and detailed perspective as to why special schools therapy is the most ideal treatment for ASD, it is vital to look at the various interventions broadly.
Medication/Medical Therapy-special Schools Therapy/Programs: Effectively Treating Autism Spectrum Disorders
According to Kumar et al. (2012, p. 1296), ASD cannot be cured completely with medical therapy or medication, but numerous pharmacologic agents or elements may be effective in treating discordant various behavioral symptoms that interfere with the daily lives of autistic children and cause distress and impairment. This point is reiterated by Autism Treatment Network (2015, p. 15) that argues that medication cannot cure autism , but can help autistic children with certain behavioral problems such as reducing anxiety, hyperactivity and irritability, as well as, improving attention. There are only two Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medications for managing symptoms of ASD, that is, aripiprazole and risperidone as reported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (2013, p. 8). Psychotropic medications are also known to be effective in treating different behavioral symptoms of autism such as lack of attention, insomnia, self-injury, repetitive and compulsive demeanors, hyperactivity, agitation, aggression, irritability and anxiety (Findling, 2005, p. 30).
Albeit research found that aripiprazole and risperidone can help in decreasing aggression, emotional distress and self-injury, many individuals who take aripiprazole and risperidone report side effects such as sleepiness, abnormal movements and sleepiness (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2013, p. 8). The side effects of medication for ASD are discordant for each group of medicines or medical therapy. While some side effects are mild, other side effects of medical therapy present more severe problems that may cause harm to autistic children Autism Treatment Network (2015, p. 15). As Matson and Williams (2015, p. 22) state, there is debate regarding the effectiveness of antipsychotic medications in challenging demeanors among autistic children with developmental disabilities, with many medical therapies being labor intensive and requiring incessant parental involvement which is often not possible as a result of time constraints, motivation and other commitments. Therefore, in as much as medical therapies or medication is effective in decreasing certain behavioral symptoms of ASD, this intervention or treatment technique is not the most ideal treatment for ASD due to the side effects that could be harmful to autistic children.
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)Special Schools Therapy/Programs: Effectively Treating Autism Spectrum Disorders
ABA which is also known as the Lovaas Method is based on the concept that all demeanors are learned and impacted by their antecedents and consequences and focuses on managing the learning opportunities of autistic children by teaching manageable and specific tasks until the children master the skills (Ryan, Hughes, Katsiyannis, McDaniel and Sprinkle,
2011, p. 59). The objective of ABA is to analyze a skill into steps which are then utilized as a teaching program. According to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (2014, p. 10), there are certain core characteristics or features of ABA:
- An objective analysis of the condition of the autistic child through observation of how the environment affects their demeanor.
- Prominence accorded to discerning the context of the demeanor and the value of the demeanor to the autistic individual, family and community.
- Use of the precepts and procedures of demeanor analysis so as to ensure that the independence, health and quality of life of the autistic person are improved.
- Ongoing and consistent objective evaluation and data analysis to inform clinical decision making regarding the way forward on treatment (Behavior Analyst Certification Board, 2014, p. 10).
Since ABA is restrictive in nature and heavily structured, it is difficult to implement in general education classroom and a major criticism of this intervention is its rigidity and strictness. Children who are not autistic learn in environments all the time, but children with ASD do not learn in environments all the time. As such, children with ASD are provided with instruction both in school and at home under ABA. The progress of the autistic child is carefully monitored and graphed so as to determine when to proceed to the next step or modify the techniques utilized. It is important to note that there is great emphasis on imitation and the ability of the autistic children to imitate. As a result, ABA gives children with ASD a good beginning in skills required to learn, that is, imitation, receptive and expressive language, as well as, attending. Moreover, ABA provides a Functional Assessment that aids in providing a better discernment of a demeanor or a set of demeanors, enables professionals to utilize Task Analysis which simplifies skills that children with ASD need to learn and provides a suitable technique for measuring progress by scientific assessment (I.N.T.O, 2002, p. 19).Special Schools Therapy/Programs: Effectively Treating Autism Spectrum Disorders
Despite the benefits of orderliness that ABA provides to children with ASD, critics argue that this treatment technique teaches children to speak and act like robots (Hamilton, 2009, p. 100). Due to the rigidity that exhibited by Applied Behavioral Analysis, certain professionals accuse the intervention of being too strenuous on a family (Hamilton, 2009, p. 101). According to (I.N.T.O, 2002, p. 19), ABA fails to take into contemplation the discordances in communication and social functioning when formulating a curriculum for children with ASD and focuses immensely on the ability of the child to respond on demand rather than encourage the children to instigate communication spontaneously. In addition, teaching is usually done on a 1:1 ratio, thus, shunning the need to develop social skills which are contemplated best learnt via interactions with peers in ABA and the treatment technique tends to focus on attaining recovery and ignores the underlying neurological elements of ASD, leading to overdependence on prompts by children with ASD (I.N.T.O, 2002, p. 19). Based on these demerits of Applied Behavioral Analysis as a type of treatment for ASD, it is not considered the most effective intervention for helping children with ASD.
Special Schools Therapy
Despite the fact that the tenet of the least restrictive environment dictates that students with disabilities should be provided with the opportunity to be educated with their non-disabled peers to the greatest extent possible, certain children such as children with ASD tend to be more successful when taught exclusively in self-contained learning environments. The current trend in most education systems is a shift towards more and more inclusion. However, it is vital to note that the conventional special education, particularly for students with ASD still has immense merits. This is because, children with ASD receive maximum attention from the instructors compared to inclusive education systems whereby autistic children are often ignored or their special needs not to addressed by the teachers. A research conducted by White et al. (2007, p. 1410) showed that inattention by schools to the behavioral and social issues in serving students with ASD has been reported in numerous inclusive schools leading the authors to conclude that this is an area of unmet needs in schools. Moreover learning supports, including tutoring were provided to relatively few elementary school students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and the provision of academic supports and interventions in developing IEPs for students with ASD is under-emphasized, especially in light of increasing the inclusion of autistic students in general education settings (White et al., 2007, p. 1410).
It is difficult to incorporate approaches such as ABA in a fully inclusive education setting. In most situations, the smaller number of classmates and individual attention characteristic of a special education program formulates an extremely effective learning environment for children with special needs. This is because some students with ASD who have moderate to severe intellectual disabilities may not cope well in inclusive classroom settings and actually prefer being part of a self-contained special education program. Depending on the type of teaching style, the instructor and the available academic and social supports, students with disabilities tend to occasionally struggle academically in inclusive classrooms. Notwithstanding, when working one-on-one with a disabilities specialist or with a special education instructor, children with ASD receive an improved amount of individual attention, resulting in a greater potential for academic growth. This means that special education programs provide more specialized and intense instruction to children with ASD than may be available in the typical general or inclusive education setting. This argument is supported by the research conducted by Wei et al. (2014, p. 175) that revealed that more severely impaired students with ASD obtained more therapies, services and attention from special schools, indicating that service provision is responsive to the individual needs of such children.Special Schools Therapy/Programs: Effectively Treating Autism Spectrum Disorders
Irrespective of the makeup or size of classrooms, every student should be viewed as a valuable member of the team. As a result, in order for learning to be most effective, each student must feel comfortable with his or her fellow classmates, as well as, teachers. However, in as much as full inclusion fostered equality, it also diminished some stigmas associated with special education. According to Kochhar-Bryant and Green (2009, p. 284), special inclusive schools are beneficial in that their instructional settings allow for greater flexibility in terms of mode of learning and teaching transition related skills, as well as, access to the community unlike in ABA whereby learning is more rigid with specific questions and answers or ways of responding. Children with ASD require special and individualized instruction before even the concept becomes a reality in their lives.
In a study conducted by Coots and Stout (2007, p. 42), the authors found that in as much educating children with ASD alongside their typically developing peers may be the ultimate goal, a self-contained special education class with individualized instruction may be more realistic early on for such children. This conclusion was based on the special education program developed by the school district whereby children with ASD spent one or two years with intensive support from professionals before being expected to join inclusive schools. These children with ASD were placed special education programs because they need extra academic support or aid and with professional tutors trained to address their special needs, the children showed immense improvement in perception, comprehension and communication. Special schools programs or therapy is the most effective treatment technique for children with ASD because instead of just focusing on repressing the behavioral symptoms of ASD among children without them having to experience the side effects of using medication, this intervention also teaches the children and provide them with sufficient academic and social support in a flexible manner unlike the rigid Applied Behavioral Analysis.
Conclusion-special Schools Therapy/Programs: Effectively Treating Autism Spectrum Disorders
This research paper has evaluated the more common approaches or methods of treatment or intervention utilized to treat Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) among children such as medical therapy or medication, Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) and special schools therapy. It is vital to note that all these treatment methods have certain benefits when it comes to treating ASD. However, medication and ABA have demerits that limit their effectiveness in treating ASD. For instance, psychotropic medications are also known to be effective in treating different behavioral symptoms of autism such as lack of attention, insomnia, self-injury, hyperactivity, agitation, aggression, irritability and anxiety among others. Nonetheless, many individuals who take aripiprazole and risperidone report side effects such as sleepiness, abnormal movements and sleepiness among others. When it comes to ABA, this intervention is effective in giving children with ASD a good beginning in skills required to learn, that is, imitation, receptive and expressive language, as well as, attending and enabling professionals to utilize Task Analysis which simplifies skills that children with ASD need to learn. However, this treatment technique teaches children to speak and act like robots and is also considered to be too strenuous on a family. As such, special schools programs or therapy is the most effective treatment technique for children with ASD. This can be attributed to the fact that instead of just focusing on repressing the behavioral symptoms of ASD among children without them having to experience the side effects of using medication, special schools therapy also teach the children and provide them with adequate academic and social support in a flexible manner unlike the rigid ABA.
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