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Dynamic Lynks Blog

Getting the Biggest Bang for your Buck

Welcome back to my New Year, New Diagnosis series. If you missed last week all about Autism, its signs and action steps to take in getting your child the best resources possible, you can check it out here. This week I am focusing on the therapeutic aspect of treatment. When it comes to choosing therapies for your child on the autism spectrum, there are a lot of options. It can be overwhelming for parents to interpret all of the information and select the best therapies based on price and effectiveness.

Creative Arts Therapies

As a music therapist, this is the therapeutic domain I generally fall under. Creative Arts Therapists use a creative medium (i.e., music, dance, art, drama) to work on functional skills in a variety of domains. I would argue this is the best bang for your buck. Creative Arts Therapists can work on a wide range of skills in a very engaging way, giving you a combination of sensorimotor development, language development, behavior management, social and emotional skill acquisition, all for one low price.

Creative Arts Therapies are great if…

  • You want your child to improve in many clinical domains

  • You are looking for a social skill group for your child

  • Your child does not respond to “traditional” therapies

  • You’re looking for a unique way to tap into various skill areas

Though creative arts therapies are not often viewed as “traditional” therapies, they use scientific research and evidence-based practices to create interventions to work on a variety of skill areas. Some creative arts therapists accept insurance and your child’s sessions would be covered. Others are private pay only, but there is often a sliding scale option. Creative arts therapy sessions can cost between $50 and $150 an hour, depending on the therapist’s specialty and level of education. Creative arts therapies are an excellent bang for your buck as they can work on many different clinical skill areas. Creative arts therapies also use specific and unique approaches to reach skills in a way that may not have been tried before. Your child does not have to show any sort of expertise in the arts to benefit from creative arts therapy.

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)

If you have a child diagnosed with autism, it is likely that you have heard of ABA. ABA targets functional skills in many domains such as language, imitation, play skills, social behavior, visual perception and teaching appropriate behaviors. ABA is usually implemented by a behavior interventionist who is overseen by a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). BCBAs create goals and targeted interventions then track data to see how behaviors are improving.

ABA is great if…

  • You want your child to improve in many clinical domains

  • Your child needs intensive behavior intervention

  • Your child is non-verbal

  • You want specific techniques to use in the home to help your child

ABA is generally very intensive and requires many hours a week of time commitment from both the child and the family. This can be difficult if your child has a busy schedule. ABA is often covered by insurance companies, but if it is not, it can get very expensive. ABA can cost between $46,00 and $47,000 a year. ABA is a great bang for your buck if there is a lot of progress to be made. However, if your child is already high-functioning, ABA may not be your first go-to.

Speech Language Pathology (SLP)

Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs) work with both verbal and non-verbal children on the autism spectrum. SLPs can provide techniques for communicating with your child such as Picture Exchange, Augmentative and Alternative Communication, and many more. SLPs also work on reading and phonics skills, social communication, grammar, pragmatic speech and various other skills within the domain of communication.

Speech is great if…

  • Your child is non-verbal

  • Your child has difficulty communicating in social situations

  • Your child communicates inappropriately

  • Your child struggles with reading

Speech is another service that is often covered by insurance. If it is not, the cost of services can range from $100 - $250 an hour. If your child’s greatest impairments do not lie in the domain of communication, Speech may not be your first choice when it comes to choosing services for your child that fit a certain price range.

Occupational Therapy (OT)

Occupational Therapists (OTs) work on a variety of skills within the sensorimotor domain including fine motor and visual motor skills, spatial awareness, sensory processing, activities of daily living, and self-regulation.

OT is great if…

  • Your child easily becomes dysregulated

  • Your child has difficulty controlling where their body is in space

  • Your child struggles with fine motor skills

  • Your child needs strategies for calming themselves down

OT is often covered by insurance, depending on your plan. OT can cost between $50 and $400 depending on the service provider and the facility where your child is receiving services. Occupational Therapy works on a wide range of skills in regard to both sensory regulation and motor skills. If your child does not struggle in these areas, OT may not be the best option and your money could be used on other therapies.

Physical Therapy (PT)

Some children with autism have sensorimotor impairments that affect their fine and gross motor skills. PTs improve these functional areas by working on strength, range of motion, balance and functional mobility.

PT is great if…

  • Your child has gross motor deficits

  • Your child struggles with mobility

  • Your child has gait impairments such as toe-walking

  • Your child has low muscle tone

Physical Therapists work on these skills using different exercises and machines in a play-based way to engage children. PT is fantastic for gross motor skill development, but if your child’s greatest impairments do not lie in gross motor skills, PT may not be your first concern when it comes to therapy on a budget. PT can cost between $50 and $350 an hour, if not covered by insurance.

There are so many services out there for you to choose from, and all have their areas of expertise. There is not one therapy that is generally better than another, but there are specialties that can help meet your child’s needs most effectively. Trying to enroll your child in every therapy that someone suggests is just not possible for a majority of people out there. Try to focus on a few goal areas you most want your child to reach and then choose the therapeutic specialty that works on those skills.

Next week I will be sharing some fantastic websites for finding research about autism as well as useful resources for parents searching for answers of all shapes and sizes. If you have a story about therapy that helped shape your child’s life, please share it with me!

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