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Autism: A Multidisciplinary Approach

BY CRYSTAL COLLETTE, MS, BCBA, LBA MANAGER, AUTISM SERVICES

The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is skyrocketing. Considered the fastest growing developmental disability, ASD in American children ages 3 to 17 has increased almost 120 percent from one in 150 in the year 2000 to one in 68 in 2014.

Research confirms that the earlier these children have access to treatment, the more likely they are to progress.

Advancements in the field also show that children with ASD and their families see even greater benefits when there is a multidisciplinary approach to treatment. This approach enables continuity of care, resulting in more rapid progression by the patient and a complete toolbox of strategies for the family.

Highly trained professionals provide diagnostic evaluations, medication management, therapy and specialized parental training and support — all under the same roof.

Multidisciplinary teams can consist of a psychiatrist, psychologist, behavior analyst, behavior technician, speech therapist, occupational therapist, individual and family therapists as well as the child’s parent(s) or guardian.

Working together, they create and implement comprehensive, individualized treatment plans that help patients make developmental improvements more rapidly in key functioning areas.

Various tools are used to assess and diagnose ASD across age, developmental level and language skills. After a child is diagnosed, each team member involved  in the patient’s care develops a datadriven, goal-oriented plan of care. Parents are a critical and integral part of the team receiving training and having regular contact with the providers.

Because ASD is a lifetime challenge, some type of therapy is involved throughout childhood, adolescence and often adulthood. Treatment often includes Applied Behavioral Analysis, which employs positive learning techniques and principles to address socially important problems and to bring about positive changes in behavior. ABA techniques help develop basic skills, such as listening, watching, imitating and more complex skills including reading, talking and understanding others. ABA also incorporates verbal behavior, in which language is broken down into functional categories and systematically taught to children who are missing those skills. With the increased need for effective treatment, the multidisciplinary approach offers the benefit of coordinated services to best address the needs of child and family.

Multidisciplinary teams can consist of a psychiatrist, psychologist, behavior analyst, behavior technician, speech therapist, occupational therapist, individual and family therapists as well as the child’s parent(s) or guardian. Working together, they create and implement comprehensive, individualized treatment plans that help patients make developmental improvements more rapidly in key functioning areas.