Treatments for Autism
Choosing a treatment or strategy for your child will be most effective if you fully consider your child’s strengths and needs. You may find that one treatment by itself is not enough, but yields better results when augmented with another strategy or strategies.
Experts agree that early intervention is a key factor in enabling autistic children to reach normal functioning levels. Moreover, the earlier the intervention, the better that child’s chances.
When creating a treatment program for your child, it is important to consider the social skill development, communication abilities, sensory integration, and behavior patterns of your child.
Programs often include a combination of approaches tailored to meet the needs of that particular child. Therefore, all options should be considered, with emphasis on what needs each strategy meets and how the strengths of each strategy correspond with the needs of your child.
If your child is younger than 3 years old, he or she is eligible for “early intervention” assistance. This federally-funded program is available in every state, but may be provided by different agencies. The National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities can provide you with information on whom to contact within your state.
If your child is between the ages of 3 and 21, The Individuals with Disabilities Act guarantees your child a free appropriate public school education. The educational program for a child with autism should be based according to the specific needs of that child and should be reflected as such in that child’s Individualized Education Program (or IEP).
When creating an IEP for the first time, consult with professionals trained and experienced in the nature of autism spectrum disorders. Their knowledge can prove invaluable in finding the best-suited educational methods for helping the child to get the most from his or her schooling.
It is important that parents and professionals collaborate in the treatment of the child; open communication can lead to better evaluation of a student’s progress. You know your child best and can provide information vital to those responsible for educating your child.
To learn about other local services, the Autism Society of America (ASA) recommends that you contact resources in your community, such as a local university-affiliated program for developmental disabilities, the local chapter of the Association for Retarded Citizens or Easter Seals. The ASA also provides an excellent listing of local developmental disabilities councils. When contacting these agencies, please keep in mind that it may take days or weeks to find the information you need.
Below is a listing of several types of approaches in treating autism. Click on each for a brief description.
The ASA lists several other treatment approaches in addition to the ones listed above. Click on each link for a description.
Note: This page is intended as a research center and guide to finding more information. The information provided above is not medical advice. Please consult your own physician
Professionals have found that many children with autism learn best in an environment that builds on their skills and interests while accommodating their special needs. Programs employing a developmental approach provide consistency and structure along with appropriate levels of stimulation.
For example, a predictable schedule of activities each day helps children with autism plan and organize their experiences. Using a certain area of the classroom for each activity helps students know what they are expected to do. For those with sensory problems, activities that sensitize or desensitize the child to certain kinds of stimulation may be especially helpful.
In one developmental preschool classroom, a typical session starts with a physical activity to help develop balance, coordination, and body awareness. Children string beads, piece puzzles together, paint and participate in other structured activities. At snack time, the teacher encourages social interaction and models how to use language to ask for more juice. Later the teacher stimulates creative play by prompting the children to pretend being a train. As in any class, the children learn by doing.
Although higher-functioning children may be able to handle academic work, they too need help to organize the task and avoid distractions. A student with autism might be assigned the same addition problems as her classmates. But instead of assigning several pages in the textbook, the teacher might give one page at a time or make a list of specific tasks to be checked off as each is done.
* Description provided by the National Institute of Mental Health.
When people are rewarded for a certain behavior, they are more likely to repeat or continue that behavior. Behaviorist training approaches are based on this principle. When children with autism are rewarded each time they attempt or perform a new skill, they are likely to perform it more often. With enough practice, they eventually acquire the skill. For example, a child who is rewarded whenever she looks at the therapist may gradually learn to make eye contact of her own.
Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas pioneered the use of behaviorist methods for children with autism more than 25 years ago. His methods involve time-intensive, highly structured, repetitive sequences in which a child is given a command and rewarded each time he or she responds correctly.
For example, in teaching a young boy to sit still, a therapist might place him in front of a chair and tell him to sit. If the child does not respond, the therapist nudges him into the chair. Once seated, the child is immediately rewarded in some way. A reward might be a bit of chocolate, a sip of juice, a hug, or applause – whatever the child enjoys. The process is repeated many times over the process of two hours. Eventually, the child learns to respond without being nudged and sits for longer periods of time. Learning to sit still and follow directions then provides a foundation for learning more complex behaviors. Using this approach for up to 40 hours a week, some children may be brought to the point of near-normal behavior. Others are much less responsive to the treatment.
However, some researchers and therapists believe that less intensive treatments, particularly those begun early in a child’s life, may be more efficient and just as effective. This belief has led many prominent researchers to study and modify the behaviorist approach.
Today, some of these behaviorist treatment programs are more individualized and built around the child’s own interests and capabilities. Many programs also involve parents or other non-autistic children in teaching the child. Instruction is no longer limited to a controlled environment but takes place in natural, everyday settings.
Although rewarding desired behavior is still a key element, the rewards are varied and appropriate to the situation. A child who makes eye contact may be awarded with a smile, rather than candy. Currently, the The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and other prominent institutions are funding several types of behaviorist treatment approaches to determine the best time for treatment to start, the optimum treatment intensity and duration, and the most effective methods to reach both high- and low-functioning children.
* Description provided by the National Institute of Mental Health.
In trying to do everything possible to help their children, many parents are quick to try new treatments. Some treatments are developed by reputable therapists or by parents of a child with autism, yet when tested scientifically, cannot be proven to help. Before spending time and money and possibly slowing their child’s progress, the family should talk with experts and evaluate the findings of objective reviewers. Following are some of the approaches that have not been shown to be effective in treating the majority of children with autism:
This technique assumes that by supporting a nonverbal child’s arms and fingers so that he can type on a keyboard, the child will be able to type out his or her inner thoughts. Several scientific studies have shown that the typed messages actually reflect the thoughts of the person providing the support.
In this technique, the parent hugs the child for long periods of time, even if the child resists. Those who use the technique contend that it forges a bond between the parent and child. Some claim that it helps stimulate parts of the brain as the child senses the boundaries of his or her own body. There is no scientific evidence, however, to support these claims.
Auditory Integration Therapy
The child listens to a variety of sounds with the goal of improving language comprehension. Advocates of this method suggest that it helps people with autism receive more balanced sensory input from their environment. When tested using scientific procedures, the method was shown to be no more effective than listening to music.
People are made to crawl and move as they did at each stage of early development, in an attempt to learn missing skills. Again, no scientific studies support the effectiveness of this method. * Description provided by the National Institute of Mental Health.
Autistic people have fought the inclusion of ABA in therapy for us since before Autism Speaks, and other non-Autistic-led autism organizations, started lobbying legislation to get it covered by insurances and Medicaid.
ABA is a myth originally sold to parents that it would keep their Autistic child out of an institution. Today, parents are told that with early intervention therapy their child will either be less Autistic or no longer Autistic by elementary school, and can be mainstreamed in typical education classes. ABA is very expensive to pay out of pocket. Essentially, Autism Speaks has justified the big price tag up front will offset the overall burden on resources for an Autistic’s lifetime. The recommendation for this therapy is 40 hours a week for children and toddlers.
The original study that showed the success rate of ABA to be at 50% has never been replicated. In fact, the study of ABA by United States Department of Defense was denounced as a failure. Not just once, but multiple times. Simply stated: ABA doesn’t work. In study after repeated study: ABA (conversion therapy) doesn’t work.
What more recent studies do show: Autistics who experienced ABA therapy are at high risk to develop PTSD and other lifelong trauma-related conditions. Historically, the autism organizations promoting ABA as a cure or solution have silenced Autistic advocates’ opposition. ABA is also known as gay conversion therapy.
The ‘cure’ for Autistics not born yet is the prevention of birth.
The ‘cure’ is a choice to terminate a pregnancy based on ‘autism risk.’ The cure is abortion. This is the same ‘cure’ society has for Down Syndrome.
This is eugenics 2021. Instead of killing Autistics and disabled children in gas chambers or ‘mercy killings’ like in Aktion T4, it’ll happen at the doctor’s office, quietly, one Autistic baby at a time. Different approaches yes, but still eugenics and the extinction of an entire minority group of people.
Fact: You can’t cure Autistics from being Autistic.
Fact: You can’t recover an Autistic from being Autistic.
Fact: You can groom an Autistic to mask and hide their traits. Somewhat. … however, this comes at the expense of the Autistic child, promotes Autistic Burnout (this should not be confused with typical burnout, Autistic Burnout can kill Autistics), and places the Autistic child at high risk for PTSD and other lifelong trauma-related conditions.
[Note: Autism is NOT a disease, but a neurodevelopmental difference and disability.]
Fact: Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism.