Autism Treatments

Sorting through autism treatments is one of the greatest challenges of families with autistic children. Five years ago it was difficult to find any treatment advice, today, there is information overload about many very different types of treatment. This section of the website has an overview of the main different types.

If you were a fiercely independent parent before the diagnosis of your child with autism, that most likely changed somewhat after the diagnosis. The discovery of autism in a child causes us to seek out help. Unfortunately, those we typically seek out first (doctors, professionals) are often little help. Therefore, we all seek out the true "experts" on autism, other parents of children with autism. One of your best resources for information and help in dealing with autism will be local parent autism support groups.

Options for autism treatments include behavioral, educational, biomedical (medications), and complementary therapies. Different professionals, each with excellent credentials and experience, may disagree about what is the best approach for the child. As a parent of an autistic child, it is important to consider each treatment option based on what they know about their child and what makes sense for them.

Every person with autism is different and some treatments and types of training may not be right for your child. No treatment is perfect. Some may end up trying more than one before they find the one that results in your child being able to learn and thrive. Perhaps a combination of two or more is what will be needed.

Behavioral therapy is the cornerstone for most treatment programs for children with autism. More than 30 years of research has shown the benefit of applied behavioral methods in improving communication, learning adaptive behavior, and acceptable social behavior while reducing behaviors which set these children apart in society. There is strong evidence that these interventions are most effective when started early, typically in the preschool years.

Medications do not treat the underlying neurological issues associated with autism. Medication is given to assist in managing behavioral symptoms of the disorder, such as hyperactivity, impulsivity, attention difficulties, and anxiety. Medication is given to lessen these problems so the person can benefit from the behavioral and educational training.

Diet and nutrition , is suspected as playing a role in behavioral issues. Individuals with autism may exhibit low tolerance or allergies to certain foods or chemicals. Many parents and professionals have reported significant changes when specific substances are eliminated from the child's diet. Modification to diet and nutrition would not, by itself be adequate, other autism treatments and special training methods would also be needed.

Complementary therapies include art therapy, music therapy, animal therapy, and sensory integration therapy. These are not behavioral or educational approaches, but they provide an opportunity for the child to develop social and communication skills. Although there is little scientific evidence that these therapies increase skills, many parents and therapists describe noticeable improvements in a child's behavior and communication abilities, as well as a sense of enjoyment.

Complementary therapies are typically used in addition to behavioral and educational autism treatments.

• Art therapy offers the child a nonverbal way to express their feelings.
• Music therapy involving singing helps develop speech and language skills.
• Animal therapy, such as horseback riding and swimming with dolphins, improves motor skills while increasing self-confidence.
• Sensory integration focuses on normalizing extreme reactions to sensory input. It tries to help the child reorganize and integrate their sensory information so they can better understand the external world.

There is no cure for autism. Autism is not a disease. In many ways a child with autism does not learn the same way other children learn. Children with autism have a difficult time focusing on what's important and usually need specific training to teach the basic social skills before they can learn reading, writing and arithmetic. Their education requirements are more extensive than a child without autism.

Children with autism are great independent problem-solvers. Special schools and training programs focus on, how to not only teach these children life skills, but how to become successful in a regular classroom. Most autistic individuals do not "naturally" learn social interaction skills. Once they are taught these skills, many become independent, successful adults.

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