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Indeed, her child's therapist explained the experience was "painful," in that the child was incapable of eye contact or close contact, and this experience was painful, rather than helpful. Holding therapy is not being used as much as it was in the past, and many experts believe it should be discontinued because of its controversy and seemingly negative effect on at least some autistic patients.
CranioSacral Therapy is a form of physical therapy that has many proponents, but for the most part is not supported by experts and researchers in autism therapies. Essentially, CranioSacral therapy is the gentle manipulation of spine and brain in an attempt to ease pain and ease some of the symptoms of autism (and other maladies, such as migraine headaches). The practitioners of this therapy and mostly massage therapists, chiropractors, and other alternative medicine practitioners, and most experts do not recommend the technique at all.
Some doctors believe that this gentle manipulation reduces stress and pressure on the brain and spine, and say they have seen remarkable improvements in autistic children after the therapy. However, most professional organizations do not condone the use of this therapy, and do not recommend it to families with autistic children. One Web site notes, "Professionals should present CranioSacral therapy as untested and unlikely to be effective; families who are considering this intervention should be encouraged to evaluate it carefully" ("CranioSacral therapy," 2007). The treatment can be very dangerous if it is performed by someone who is not absolutely trained in the spinal cord and surrounding muscles and tissue, and if the child acts out or has recurrent movement during the therapy it could create very dangerous results and end in permanent damage to the spine or brain. Some people may believe in this type of therapy, but there is no conclusive evidence that it actually works, and it could be extremely harmful if things went wrong during the therapy. It is best to avoid this type of therapy for the health and well being of the autistic patient. Any short-term gains in movement and symptoms are not worth the dangers of this therapy.
Music therapy is used to treat some autistic patients because there is a known link between music and language, and many autistic patients seem to gravitate toward music and song lyrics. As another autism expert notes, "Music is processed on the right side of the brain; the opposite side of the brain from language. Many children with autism can hum, mumble, or babble songs before they can produce any clear speech" (Siegel, 2003, p. 219). Thus, music reaches them on another level and the respond to it more than they might to other forms of therapy.
Music therapy for the autistic can take several forms, and as with other treatments, it may not be effective for all patients. Some music therapists pair words with music to help teach speech patterns and words, and it can also be used as a calming and stress reduction device. Some autistic patients show an aptitude for music, and in these cases, the therapy can include music lessons that help the child focus, concentrate, and develop learning techniques. Some music therapists use computers to create sounds and music, while others use keyboards or musical instruments. Children can play music, listen to music, or sing along in the various types of music therapy.
Music therapy can have a wide variety of benefits, from stress reduction to calming. It can also enhance development and create an atmosphere of less isolation for children. It can help them develop motor and social skills, and create new avenues for communication. For many the most important results of music therapy are the opportunities for self-expression and self-satisfaction that music therapy allows many autistic patients. Music therapy is different for each patient, but it can be a very effective method of reaching at least some autistic children. It is also a common bond that many autistic children share and can relate to, so it can be used in classroom settings and other group activities to help bring autistic children more in contact and "in tune" with their peers.
In conclusion, there are just a sampling of the many therapies and treatments that are being used for children and adults with autism. Other treatments include occupational therapy, anti-yeast therapy, sensory integration therapy, aromatherapy and Son-Rise therapy, among many others. Awareness for Autism support groups have been providing more funding for new experimentation in treatments, and there are ongoing studies targeting a variety of therapies and therapies. In addition, the Association for Science in Autism is working closely with Congress to create more funding opportunities for autism research and treatment options throughout the country. Though no cure has been found for this disease, there are many options for treatment that can help many autism patients lead more productive and fulfilling lives, and it seems certain that more treatments and therapies will develop in the future.
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Buitelaar, J.K. (2003). Why have drug treatments been so disappointing?. In Autism: Neural basis and treatment possibilities, Bock, G. & Goode, J. (Eds.) (pp. 235-242). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
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Howlin, P. (2003). Can early interventions alter the course of autism? In Autism: Neural basis and treatment possibilities, Bock, G. & Goode, J. (Eds.) (pp. 250-257). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
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Schoen, a.A. (2003). What potential does the applied behavior analysis approach have for the treatment of children and youth with autism? Journal of instructional psychology, 30(2), 125+.
Siegel, B. Helping children with autism learn: Treatment approaches for parents and professionals. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Stacey, P. (2003, January/February). Floor time: A new approach to the treatment of autism, One that emphasizes emotional development through intensive one-on-one engagement with autistic children. The Atlantic monthly, 291, 127+.
Tsai, L.Y. (2005). Chapter 12 Medical treatment in autism. In Autism spectrum disorders: identification, education, and treatment, Zager, D. (Ed.) (pp. 395-483). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
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