Norton Children’s Autism Center, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, offers multidisciplinary, family-centered treatment for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We offer services from a wide range of specialties designed to meet each child where they are.
Behavioral and Mental Health Therapy for Autism
Children with ASD can build social, language and play skills through a variety of intensive behavioral therapies. We can recommend specific therapies and strategies to incorporate their strengths and address their unique needs. Often, children with ASD benefit from a combination of different therapies. These usually are highly structured, one-on-one or in small groups that include family members. Therapies can include:
- Applied behavioral analysis (ABA): Elements of this approach help children practice new skills repeatedly, along with creating positive reinforcements. These skills are broken down into small steps so a child can build more complex skills over time. The therapy is customized to a child’s interests, abilities and behavior.
- Pivotal response treatment (PRT): This is a behavioral treatment for autism. The goals include developing communication and language skills, increasing positive social behaviors and relief from disruptive self-stimulatory behaviors. PRT targets “pivotal” areas of a child’s development instead of working on one specific behavior, and produces improvements across other areas of social skills, communication, behavior and learning.
- Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication-handicapped Children (TEACCH): This approach uses structured strategies based on the learning needs of people with ASD. Physical organization, individualized schedules, activity systems and visual materials are part of the Structured TEACCHing method to help students with autism achieve educational and therapeutic goals.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This psychotherapeutic treatment helps people learn how to identify and change destructive or disturbing thought patterns that have a negative influence on behavior and emotions. CBT is often used to treat accompanying issues such as anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder in ASD when applicable.
- Individual and family therapy: Individual therapy and family therapy are offered to children and their families to improve behavioral function, social/peer interactions, anxiety, sadness, worries or compulsions. Working with families is an integral part of our treatment approach, and we often network with other community resources to optimize outcomes.
- Group therapy: Group therapy primarily focuses on strengthening peer-to-peer interactions and providing skills to facilitate social relationships. Our groups range from preschool age to adulthood. Often, psychologists team up with other professionals, such as occupational therapists, to provide a combination of social and adaptive skills.
- Transition services: These services assist adolescents and young adults with ASD to become as independent as possible in post-secondary educational settings or help them obtain and maintain meaningful employment.
- Parent support and training: Parents get assistance understanding ASD, its implications on behavior and adaptive functioning. Parents identify individualized strategies to use at home to improve social, communication and behavioral challenges.
Developmental pediatricians and nurse practitioners diagnose and provide medication management of disorders commonly associated with ASD such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), global developmental delay, aggression, irritability, sleep disturbances, sensory disorders and anxiety. The provider team closely monitors growth and development throughout childhood and young adult life while collaborating with psychology, speech therapy, occupational therapy, neurology, psychiatry and comprehensive services that constitute a personalized approach to the patient and family.
Occupational Therapy for Autism
Occupational therapy can help improve a child’s participation in everyday life activities such as self-care, home and community living tasks, play, education-related tasks and social participation. Our therapy team also offers outpatient feeding therapy services to help child and family develop new mealtime routines. Feeding therapy will address the child’s acceptance of a wider variety of foods so that mealtimes are more enjoyable for the whole family. The ultimate goal of our occupational therapy program is to help caregivers develop problem-solving skills to make positive and effective changes to their child’s daily living routines and build a child’s abilities and confidence to participate in daily living activities at a higher level of independence.
Speech Therapy for Autism
Our team of speech-language pathologists provide specialized services in the areas of speech, language, social skills, fluency, feeding/swallowing, and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) for children, teens and young adults with ASD.
AAC uses a variety of methods other than verbal speech to communicate. Examples of AAC include the use of gestures, pictures, typing, and speech-generating devices. Patients with severe speech and/or language impairments may benefit from the use of AAC to functionally communicate their wants, needs, thoughts and ideas.
Our speech-language therapy services are tailored to the child’s and family’s needs and may include:
- Comprehensive evaluation of speech, language, social skills, fluency, feeding/swallowing and AAC
- Speech-generating device trials (if indicated)
- Parent/caregiver training
- Ongoing individual and/or group treatment
Our speech-language pathologists use a team approach, working closely with other providers to determine the communication system that best meets the needs of the child. We emphasize the importance of family and caregiver involvement and participation. Our ultimate goal is to train those closest to the child for success at home and in the community. We accomplish this by equipping the child and caregivers with the tools, knowledge and support needed to improve the child’s ability to communicate.