Psychoanalysis Helps Kids With Autism
Researchers Say Psychoanalysis Should Be Part of Treatment for Children With Autism
Is Autism Reversible? continued...
"Autism was considered a brain condition that can't be changed, and I
think that is now dated and not right," says Martha Herbert, MD, a
pediatric neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
And this is just not the case anymore.
"I have seen enough kids do substantially better than when they came in,
and I think we can no longer assume that autism is not reversible, but we don't
know whether it is reversible for everyone or subgroups," she says.
"The real gauntlet it throws down is that if some kids can get a lot better
and you don't know which ones it will be, how do you justify limited
Now if a definitive diagnosis is made, the child should be in intensive
intervention at least 25 hours per week, 12 months per year, according to the
"We used to have soccer moms and now we have therapy moms," Herbert
tells WebMD. "Moms are running themselves into the ground and yet they are
not really present, so they become part of the process and not part of
Parents of children with autism need to relate to the child in whatever
state they are in -- and this is where psychoanalysis may be helpful, she
Psychoanalysts can be sensitive to the inner world of the child. "It's a
skill you can't package, but it's wonderful," Herbert says.
Many Approaches to Autism Treatment
"Very little is known about effective treatments for autism,"
says Andy Shih, PhD, vice president of scientific affairs at Autism Speaks, a
New York City-based nonprofit group aimed at increasing awareness of autism
spectrum disorders and funding research into its causes, prevention, and
"The only approach that has evidence behind it is ABA," he tells
WebMD. "In many cases, this approach has been helpful in allowing children
to lead a healthy and more normal life."
There are things that parents are trying today that may lack solid evidence
such as diet changes, he says. "One of the major challenges is that this
population is so [diverse] that what works for one parent may not work for your
children. There is a lot of confusion and lack of clarity about what works or
Shih doesn't discount any treatments including psychoanalysis. "All are
possibilities, but what we really need is more research assessing how
interventions work and what children they work for," he says. While he is
not sure whether or not the disorder is reversible, "I think that it is
certainly a possibility."