Asperger Syndrome Therapies

Reviewed by Terri Forehand RN
Terri Forehand RN Terri Forehand RN

Terri is a critical care nurse with over 35 years of experience. She is also a freelance writer and author.

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Asperger syndrome therapies are essential elements in a treatment plan for a developing child and some interventions are appropriate during adolescence and adulthood. Each individual who has Asperger disorder is unique, and therapy should cater to the individual's specific needs with approaches that follow a number of general guidelines.

Types of Treatments for Asperger Syndrome

There are various approaches to consider when developing a treatment plan. Typically, a team that includes parents, behavior specialists, psychiatrists, and therapists develops the plan. Therapies for Asperger's syndrome are designed to help the individual reach specific goals designated by the treatment plan. The following chart offers examples of therapies and the symptoms they address.

Types of Asperger Syndrome Therapies
Therapy Goal Age Group
Applied Behavioral Analysis Basic cause-and-effect learning Early intervention
Floortime Social development and play skills Early intervention
Social skills training with peers Improve social interaction All
Cognitive behavioral therapy Appropriate behavioral responses, Childhood, adolescence, adulthood
Occupational therapy Fine and gross motor skills; sensory processing All
Speech therapy Communication and articulation All
Therapeutic animals Sensory; relational All
Social Stories Social skills; communication; behavior All
Sensory integration Behavior; communication; sensory processing All

According to an article published in the New York Times in June 2010, there isn't a single perfect treatment for those who are diagnosed with Asperger's. In addition to the above therapies, parent training and medications may also be considered as treatments. The specific therapies depend on the individual's interests, strengths and needs. Some approaches focus on developing relationships and encourage empathy. This viewpoint is emphasized by New Horizons Unlimited, which stresses the importance of social skills training at an early age.

ABA and Floortime

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) breaks tasks down into small doable steps according to an article published on Once a step is mastered, the next step in the task is introduced. Desired responses are rewarded and inappropriate responses are quickly redirected. Common strategies in ABA include discrete trials that offer drills designed specifically for task mastery.

ABA is typically used in early intervention and many Asperger children master steps with remarkable speed so this approach is faded out of the program rather quickly. Older children often find this therapy tedious. However, discrete trials can be very effective in creating a systematic approach to learning.

Floortime was developed by Stanley Greenspan in an effort to foster strong relational connections for children in the autism spectrum of disorders. This approach is organized in six stages beginning with observation and leading to spontaneous interactions. The child learns how to play and interact through a systematic approach that is very rewarding.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a wonderful approach for adolescents and adults. In the book Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Adult Asperger Syndrome, the author Valerie Gaus discusses the importance of addressing the many issues adults with Asperger's face, and she names cognitive behavioral therapy as one beneficial forms of therapy. In addition, some children can benefit from this form of therapy as well. This approach focuses on thought processes while encouraging the individual to take other people's perspectives. This Asperger syndrome therapy is effective in treating common problems including anxiety and depression while treating obsessive tendencies.

Social Skills Training

Social skills training helps the individual develop bonds with others. Developing relationships requires practice and many social skills that form naturally for most people have to be taught deliberately and systematically. The approaches include play therapy, modeling and Gray Center's Social Stories.

Social Stories provide a script to help the individual navigate through certain social situations. The stories are catered to the person's needs and can include situations like attending class, going to the store and meeting new people. The scripts are helpful in providing a manageable tool for social interaction.

Speech and Occupational Therapy

Speech and OT are helpful in developing the skills necessary for communication and daily living skills. Some treatment strategies merge these two approaches to create a comprehensive approach. As the individual masters skills, he develops confidence and self-esteem. Speech and OT address sensory issues as well.

Sensory Integration and Therapeutic Animals

Sensory integration and therapeutic animals allow the individual to engage the senses in order to calm and organize behavior. Sensory issues can be very uncomfortable and irritating, leading to significant behavioral and attention problems. These therapies work to help the individual focus on the positive interactions associated with the five senses. The animals are calming for many people and they offer excellent practice for interaction. Some of the most popular therapeutic animals include horses, and programs such as equine therapy focus on managing many of the behavioral issues associated with Asperger's.

Guidelines for Asperger Syndrome Therapies

Aspergers syndrome is best treated with a comprehensive plan that addresses the particular needs and strengths of the individual. It is important to consider typical child development when working with young subjects and age-appropriate behaviors for adolescents and adults.

Treatment Strategies

Strategies in treatment plans focus on the individual's abilities and strengths while addressing social, behavioral and sensory problems. Using the person's interests is a very motivating strategy that improves attention. Adding sensory integration into the program offers a wonderful outlet for sensory processing problems. Strategies have the following characteristics:

  • Direct and concrete
  • Concepts introduced systematically
  • Introduce on skill at a time
  • Work with strengths
  • Rewards are immediate and connected to desired response

Therapy Environment

The environment is of great importance in the treatment of autistic conditions since behavior and attention problems are factors to consider. The ideal setting has certain characteristics including:

  1. Clutter-free environment
  2. Individualized attention
  3. Visual aids
  4. Highly Structured routine

Therapy should begin in a controlled setting and gradually transitioned into generalized settings then faded out of the program as skills are mastered. Creating the right setting can make a significant difference in the success of Asperger syndrome therapies. Catering each approach to the strengths and needs of the individual is an excellent place to begin in the development of a comprehensive treatment plan.

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