Early diagnosis is important for autism treatment. In Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), symptoms may appear before the age of 3 years old. As ASD exists as a spectrum with varying symptoms and severities, treatment options may not be the same for each child. When diagnosis is done earlier, parents are able to choose treatments that will be the most beneficial for their child. There are multiple therapy options that should be carefully picked and considered before starting a treatment.

1. Diagnosis

The first thing that parents need to consider before beginning Autism therapy is the diagnosis of the child. There are three main areas of difficulty that a child with ASD has: communication, social interaction, and impairment in interest & activities. Communication problems include echolalia (i.e. verbatim repetitions), non-contextual speech phrases and having trouble understanding simple instructions. Social interactions symptoms are displayed through difficulties in perceiving the emotional state of others, expressing emotions, or forming attachments and relationships with others. Children with ASD may also show repetitive, ritualistic and unusual behaviour patterns with the insistence of sameness.

In Singapore, 1 in 150 children has autism. Diagnosis assessments should be given by specially trained psychologists, child psychiatrists, or developmental paediatricians who are familiar with and have clinical experience in diagnosing ASD. Once a child is diagnosed, parents can move on to the next step of the treatment process.

2. Consider When to Start Autism Therapy

It is important to start autism therapy as soon as the diagnosis is made. However, starting many multiple therapies may not be ideal for the child. Transitioning into new therapy programmes may be distressing and uncomfortable as there is a preference for sameness and routine in one’s daily life. The child needs to be ready and be eased into treatments to avoid any triggering effects.

3. Consider Family and Child’s Profile

Some behavioural intervention programmes may require families to invest a substantial amount of money and time in the treatment. Parents should consider a programme that can fit into their schedules, without it being too taxing on family members. It is important for the treatment process to be navigated well to ensure success.

Depending on the profile of the child, the therapy of choice should help achieve its goals. The purpose of autism therapy should be within the child’s learning readiness and solve problems in accordance with their assessment.

4. Choosing the Autism Treatment

There are many various kinds of therapy methods for autism treatment. It is important for parents to use therapies that are proven to work as well as seek information from practitioners for reliable recommendations information. The child’s profile will help parents pick a suitable method that can mitigate or overcome their problems. For example, music therapy is used to help auditory and cognitive abilities. Applied behaviour analysis (ABA) helps to minimise undesirable behaviours and develop their skills through techniques such as shadowing to improve their communication, social skills and academic tasks.