Autism - Treatment Overview
Early diagnosis and treatment
helps young children with
autism develop to their full potential. The primary
goal of treatment is to improve the overall ability of the child to
Symptoms and behaviors of autism can combine in many
ways and vary in severity. Also, individual symptoms and behaviors often
change over time. For these reasons, treatment strategies are tailored to
individual needs and available family resources. But in general children with
autism respond best to highly structured and specialized treatment. A program
that addresses helping parents and improving communication, social, behavioral,
adaptive, and learning aspects of a child's life will be most
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends
the following strategies for helping a child to improve overall function and
reach his or her potential:6
Behavioral training and managementBehavioral training and management.
Behavioral training and management uses positive reinforcement, self-help, and
social skills training to improve behavior and communication. Many types of
treatments have been developed, including Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA),
Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped
Children (TEACCH), and sensory integration.
Specialized therapies. These
include speech, occupational, and physical therapy. These therapies are
important components of managing autism and should all be included in various
aspects of the child's treatment program. Speech therapy can help a child with
autism improve language and social skills to communicate more effectively.
Occupational and physical therapy can help improve any deficiencies in
coordination and motor skills. Occupational therapy may also help a child with
autism to learn to process information from the senses (sight, sound, hearing,
touch, and smell) in more manageable ways.
Many people with autism have sleep problems. These
are usually treated by staying on a routine, including a set bedtime and time
to get up. Your doctor may try medicines as a last resort.
alternative therapies, such as secretin and auditory
integration training, have circulated in the media and other information
sources. When you are thinking about any type of treatment, find out about the source of the information and about whether the studies are scientifically
sound. Accounts of individual success are not sufficient evidence to support
using a treatment. Look for large, controlled studies to validate
Experts have not yet identified a way to prevent autism.
Public concern over stories linking
autism and childhood vaccines has persisted. But
numerous studies have failed to show any evidence of a link between autism and
the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.7 If you avoid having your children immunized, you put them and
others in your community at risk for developing serious diseases, which can
cause serious harm or even death.