Treatments for autism are often costly - and many have the potential to cause signficant side effects. Even so, the treatments come with no guarantee of success for any individual child. But not every treatment for autism comes with a high tab or the possibility of serious risk. Here are a few options that are inexpensive ($10 - $100 total) and at least as likely to succeed as many of the higher priced, higher risk treatments!
Floortime is a form of therapeutic play, developed over the past 30-odd years by Dr. Stanley Greenspan. It has been researched to some degree, and seems to be effective for many children with autism. To begin Floortime, all you really need is a book - Engaging Autism
- a kitchen timer, a few old toys, and a whole lot of creative energy. If you want to spend a great deal more money, you can attend conferences, buy videos, and even hire a consultant - but none of that is really necessary.
Relationship Development Intervention (RDI), developed by Dr. Stephen Gutstein, is a more formal social skills training program than Floortime. In theory, you have to pay several thousand dollars up front for training, and then shell out a good deal more for consultants. But now that the good folks at RDIConnect
have upgraded their website to include downloads, videos and a lively forum, parents can get started for the low, low price of - but wait! You can get a free two-week trial and give RDI a whirl for nothing down.
If you think you need to hire a high-priced, highly trained therapist to teach your child social thinking skills, think again! Websites, books and videos can provide you with plenty of material to start working with your child with a minimal investment. All children with autism can benefit from Social Stories, which are easy to create on your own. If your child is ready for real-life social interactions, videos like Model Me Kids
, Challenger sports leagues and plain old play dates may be as effective as expensive, therapist-led social skills groups.
Non-verbal and low-communicating kids with autism are often able to communicate when they have the right tools. High-end digital speech synthesizers are very expensive - but there's a low-tech option called PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) which has proven to be very effective. PECS, developed by Pyramid Educational Products, involves the exchange of images (picture cards) between two people to communicate at simple and even complex levels.
Not only does PECS work, but you can get PECS images off the web for free. Before you start, though, it's a good idea to order the PECS video from Pyramid. It provides a lot of wonderful ideas for using the system effectively while building skills.
If anecdotal evidence can be trusted, many children with autism are - at least in part - suffering from food intolerances. Many parents have found that removing wheat and dairy from their child's diet makes a huge difference in behavior and mood. If you are careful to meet your child's nutritional needs, the diet is not risky - and especially if your child has digestive problems, it's certainly worth a try.
If you go the organic, specialty store route, gluten and cassein free foods can be very expensive. But there are many ordinary grocery products (think chicken, beans, rice, and so forth) that are absolutely free of wheat and dairy. Supplement with a few pricier choices (rice milk, for example) - and GFCF is a relative bargain!
Portia Iversen's book, Strange Son, describes how Indian mom Soma Mukhopadhyay taught her non-verbal autistic son to communicate through simply pointing to letters on a piece of cardboard. Soma's technique involves much more than pointing - but Iversen wanted to know more about just how pointing works, and whether it could work for her non-verbal son, Dov.
Long story short, Iversen claims that her son - and others - have learned to communicate simple and complex ideas through simply pointing at letters. And, while Soma charges a great deal of money to work with individual children, Iversen has provided some free get-started tools at her website.
Since pointing is free and risk-free, it's certainly worth giving it a try!
A fair amount of research has shown that video modeling can be very effective in teaching children with autism. Whether you're interested in teaching life skills (toothbrushing, for example) or complex social skills, you can't go wrong by borrowing or buying a couple of specially designed videos
. If you search the web (or even Ebay and YouTube) you'll find a variety of choices to try out. You can also make judicious use of educational television shows to provide social models for your child (PBSKids is great source for simple models of sharing, conflict resolution, and so forth).
At worst, if your child doesn't respond as you'd hoped - you can always resell any videos you purchsed on Ebay!