I know that there are a lot of different therapies available for children with autism. Some of them are more effective than others and pretty much everyone agrees that early intervention is the key to treating autism most effectively.
In my case, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 7th grade. I was 13 years old at the time. After being diagnosed my mom took me to therapy for a few weeks. After maybe the third visit I asked my mom what the therapy was supposed to do. She said that it was supposed to help me. I told her that I didn’t think the therapy really did anything so she probably shouldn’t waste her money on it.
I guess I was lucky though because in reality I had been in therapy for a long time before getting diagnosed with Asperger’s. Growing up I had trouble hearing and developed a speech impediment. I couldn’t say the letter R. Starting in 2nd grade I went to speech therapy to help me with this. During therapy we would play games with other kids that used the letters we had trouble with. Therapy was both interactive and challenged us to use words we would avoid in normal conversation because we had a hard time saying them.
By 7th grade my speech impediment was probably as good as it would ever get. So my therapist decided to focus on my social skills rather than keep trying to get the letter R perfect. I was challenged to do something new each week. Sometimes it was something like apologizing when I did something I regretted or sometimes it was ordering from a store or asking for help. Every challenge was extremely difficult for me. I had to force myself to confront situations head on and figure out how to get through them. Most of the time my parents were there to help me, but they also had to restrain from “saving me” in order for me to learn how to do things on my own.
Eventually I got to the point where I knew how to confront most situations on my own and I was no longer afraid of being stuck in a situation and not knowing how to handle it. I can’t say that getting to this point was easy, but looking back I can say that it was totally worth it. I have lived on my own, applied for and interviewed for and worked at jobs on my own, and been entirely self sufficient. If it hadn’t been for those challenges and that therapy that I received, I probably would not be able to say that now. Although trying to get through those situations on my own was difficult, I am now grateful that I did those things then so that as an adult I didn’t feel foolish when I didn’t know what to do in the same situations.
I can’t give specific advice on the effectiveness of therapies and I think it probably varies with different people, but if you can’t afford the therapies recommended, don’t lose hope. Even something that may not seem like therapy can make a huge difference. My therapy consisted mostly of interactions, some basic training and rehearsal, and a lot of challenges. I think the biggest key is just knowing how far to push and allowing yourself to make mistakes. Even taking what may seem like the smallest steps can make a huge difference in the long run.