Heathism provides an overview of autism treatments, including behavior therapy, medical treatment, school-based programs, nutritional therapy and more.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for autism, but researchers have found that different environmental, behavioral and medical treatments seem to help with autistic symptoms. In most cases, a team approach that includes a pediatrician, school therapist and behavioral specialist provides the best results for families with an autistic child. A comprehensive treatment plan should involve the whole family, and may be changed regularly, depending on the child’s current health status. Some families may need to utilize multiple treatment options, depending on the severity of the autistic disorder.
Behavioral Therapy – Research shows that intensive behavioral therapy has a significant impact on improving cognitive and language skills in children with autistic spectrum disorder. The younger you start treatment, the better the results. Behavioral therapy helps the child learn how to communicate in different ways, to make their needs and feelings known. As the child ages, a behavioral therapist can help them learn daily living skills, such as bathing, dressing and other important tasks that give the child a sense of accomplishment.
Medical Treatment – According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, several different medications have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as effective treatments for autistic spectrum disorder. Risperidone is a medication prescribed to reduce aggressive behavior, self-injury and repetitive motions. Antidepressants are used to treat mood disorders and anxiety in children with autism. Some medications used to treat hyperactivity disorders may also be beneficial. However, be aware that these medications have side effects. In addition, antidepressants may cause suicidal thoughts in some children and adolescents.
School-Based Programs – Schools that specialize in autistic disorders offer a wealth of benefits for autistic children and their families. For those individuals who do not live near a school for autistic children, many public and private schools also offer a school- based program for children with autistic disorders. These programs offer many benefits including:
- Special training for the autistic child and family members
- Focused, challenging activities appropriate for the child’s learning level
- Structured environment to minimize disorder and distress for the child
- Social skills and daily living skills for improved quality of life
Applied Behavior Analysis – A method known as applied behavior analysis, or ABA, is widely accepted as an effective treatment for autistic disorders. Oftentimes, ABA involves one-on-one intensive interaction between a teacher and the autistic child to shape and reinforce new behaviors, while reducing undesirable ones. The goals of ABA often include recognizing letters and numbers, learning self-care activities and following verbal/visual cues to perform daily tasks.
Nutritional Therapy – Some studies show that nutritional therapy may improve the symptoms associated with autism, including eating a gluten-free or casein-free diet. The avoidance of gluten and casein-based products does not improve autistic symptoms in all cases, but some pediatricians do report a substantial improvement in autistic symptoms in a small number of children. Other forms of nutritional therapy shown to improve symptoms of autism include omega-3 fatty acid supplements, high-potency multimineral/ multivitamin supplements and avoiding food allergies that may irritate the symptoms associated with autism. Although nutritional therapy is not approved by the FDA as a recognized treatment for autism, individual studies show that changes in nutrition have a positive effect on autistic symptoms.