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What Are The Possible Interventions For Autism Spectrum Disorder?

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There are various interventions that have helped improve the quality of life for many individuals with an autism spectrum diagnosis. Some of them have been described below.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

ABA is used for describing programs that adhere to certain principles and not to any specific program or procedure. One of the key principles is the analysis and measurement of relations between environment and behaviour. ABA programs aim to teach new skills and generalize them across different settings.

The focus is on reinforcing desirable behaviours and decreasing behaviours of concern. They are used to teach academic and vocational skills, increase speech, social skills, play skills, and decrease problem behaviours. In recent times, there has been an emphasis on implementing the program in the child’s naturalistic settings.

Representation image. Many psychiatric disorders in children are managed by medications, some of which have symptoms overlapping with those seen in children with ASD.

For behaviours that are challenging, the most common approach is to conduct an assessment of the environmental events which elicit and maintain problem behaviours, called functional analysis. Following this, an attempt is made to replace problem behaviour with a more acceptable behaviour like requesting a toy.

Social Skills Training

ASD involves difficulties in social interaction. Social skills training teaches children the skills they need to interact with others, including conversation and problem-solving skills. The use of ABA methods, social narratives/stories, peer-mediated interventions, or social skills groups are some ways for teaching social skills.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

The use of CBT with individuals with ASD is growing. The focus of CBT is on replacing negative or ineffective patterns of thought and behaviour with strategies that are effective in enhancing mood and adaptive functioning.

Support for ‘self-management’, a type of CBT designed for higher functioning children/adolescents or adults with ASD, is growing. This has been found to support the management of anxiety, depression, anger control, and social skills. It has helped people with ASD to learn to independently regulate their own behaviours and act more appropriately in a variety of settings.

Medication

Many psychiatric disorders in children are managed by medications, some of which have symptoms overlapping with those seen in children with ASD.

These include hyperactivity, inattention, obsessive-compulsive behaviours, anxiety, etc. But there are no medications that treat the social and language impairments of ASD.

The medications used most frequently for children and adults include those for managing the above-mentioned symptoms though their use is challenging and not without risks.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

AAC helps make up for the deficits in expressive communication with interventions ranging from the use of sign language to picture systems and more complex electronic communication devices.

This intervention can be used at any age. One popular strategy is the ‘Picture Exchange Communication System’ (PECS), wherein individuals are trained to exchange picture cards for desired items. The therapist uses a label for each item. It also reinforces attempts to initiate social contact.

Visual Supports

For many children with ASD, the use of visual supports has been linked to a positive effect on their learning, behaviour, and social skills. Some examples include the use of schedules, picture exchange systems, and structured teaching. More often than not, they are used in conjunction with other interventions.

Other therapies include occupational therapy, sensory integration, and parent-implemented interventions. Sensory Integration (SI), is popular though not much evidence base has been found.

Many children with ASD are thought to have a form of sensory integration dysfunction, which may lead to hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to sensory input, activity levels that are unusually high or low, problems with coordination, etc.

It involves evaluating a child’s sensory needs to decide activities to support those needs, including swinging, jumping, and more.

It is usually implemented by occupational therapists. Occupational therapy, on the other hand, teaches skills that help an individual live as independently as possible. Skills may include dressing, eating, bathing, and relating to people.

Complementary And Alternative Medicine (CAM) Treatments

These include the use of melatonin. Research has found that melatonin can help children with ASD to fall asleep. A gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet and nutritional supplements like B6, Magnesium, B12 are other treatments.

Talking about the GFCF diet, an inability to effectively metabolize gluten and casein (proteins), in some severe cases, had been linked to gastrointestinal or neurological problems. It has been proposed that ASD symptomology may be associated with this process. However, there is limited research for the efficacy of these treatments.

Featured image source: Pixabay
Image is for representation purposes only.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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