Autism Treatment Options
Autism spectrum disorders
(ASDs) affect the ability of a person to communicate and interact with the
people and the world around them. The severity of these obstacles can vary
widely with each autistic individual. There is no cure for ASDs. However, there
are a number of programs that are designed to help someone with an ASD
strengthen their particular areas of difficulty.
that there is a wide range of severity when it comes to ASD, and every
intervention plan must be unique to your child.
Choosing a Program — The
Right Questions to Ask
trying to determine the best treatment programs for your child, you’re going to
have to work with others—medical specialists, therapists, and program managers.
You may not know exactly what questions to ask all these different experts.
Here are a few sample questions provided by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) that may help you
- How successful has the program been for other children?
- How many children have gone on to placement in a regular
school and how have they performed?
- Do staff members have training and experience in working
with children and adolescents with autism?
- How much individual attention will my child receive?
- How is progress measured? Will my child's behavior be
closely observed and recorded?
The programs for treating
autism and other ASDs are referred to as intervention programs. Intervention
should begin as early as possible after diagnosis. It’s generally agreed that
if an intervention is put into play early, chances of success are improved.
programs can use a variety of techniques, including:
reinforcement to encourage appropriate behavior or use of skills
basic tasks into a number of simple steps to aid in understanding the task
visual cues to indicate where the student is supposed to be and what they
are supposed to do in a particular situation
up to you and your child’s doctors to choose the best program. Even then, it
will have to be customized for your child’s particular needs. You may also
combine two or more of the common intervention programs.
of the specifics of the program, it will require the involvement of your entire
family and a team of professionals. Treatment may take place in your home, in a
special school or center, or a combination of both.
of the more common intervention programs are listed below.
Applied Behavior Analysis
type of intervention is based on behavioral teaching. It uses a three-step
process to teach:
- An antecedent: This is a verbal or physical stimulus.
- A resulting behavior: This is the child’s response (or lack of
response) to the antecedent
- A consequence: Depending on the behavior, this could be a positive
reinforcement (if the resulting behavior is desired) or no reaction (for
targets specific behaviors, usually the skills needed to function effectively
in social settings. Skills are broken down into small, manageable pieces, so
that the child can build on what they have learned in a natural environment.
techniques also form the core of many other programs.
intervention works on the premise that a child with autism will learn best when
a parent or teacher engages him or her at the level of the child. In other
words, let the child lead. The parent or teacher will get down on the floor
with the child. The thinking is that a child will be more open to learning in a
Early Start Denver Model
is a relationship-based approach that uses the same teaching techniques as applied
behavior analysis. ESDM can be started for children as young as 12 months of
age. The ESDM follows a set curriculum that includes:
and gross motor skills
Pivotal Response Treatment
used to be called the Natural Language Paradigm. It’s based on the same
principles of ABA, but focuses on “pivotal” behaviors like motivation and
initiation of communication with others. Proponents of this technique believe
that improving these pivotal behaviors can help improve a wide range of other
attempts to modify behavior using positive reinforcement. It focuses on six
of declarative language
Children begin by working with a parent or teacher, and are eventually matched
with a peer at a similar level of development.
TEACCH approach is based on capitalizing on what the program calls the “culture
of autism.” This refers to the strengths and difficulties that those with an
ASD typically share. For example, TEACCH seeks to make particular use of the
preference most autistic children have for processing information visually.
TEACCH usually occurs in classroom settings. In the classroom, the physical and
social environments are structured specifically to help the individual child
more easily understand daily activities.
SCERTS approach combines aspects of ABA, TEACCH, Floortime, and RDI. Unlike
other programs, SCERTS focuses on helping children initiate their own
communication in everyday activities. The goal of SCERTS is to help children
gain the ability to apply learned skills in a spontaneous way. Ultimately, this
helps them learn to navigate new situations.
A number of drugs are available that can help those with
an (ASD). These don’t treat or cure the disorder itself, but aid with many of
the symptoms related to the condition.
Great care should be taken in the use of these medications
for ASDs. Many of them have side effects.
Some of these drugs are prescribed “off-label” for ASD patients.
According to the NIMH, This
means that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the drugs for
use for ASD, but doctors can prescribe them if deemed appropriate.
Below are some of the behaviors listed by the NIMH for
which your child’s doctor may prescribe drugs.
The FDA has approved risperidone (Risperdal) as a
treatment for aggression, temper tantrums, and attempts at deliberate self-injury
in autistic children ages 5 to 16.
Other drugs used for treating aggression and behavioral
problems in autistic children include, olanzapine (Zyprexa), haloperidol (Haldol),
and thioridazine (Mellaril).
OCD and Depression
Fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft) are both used to
treat obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression.
Two drugs that treat seizures are carbamazepine (Tegretol)
and valproic acid (Depakote).
For hyperactivity, there are stimulants like
methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta) and dextroamphetamine (Adderal).
Drugs such as diazepam, lithium, and lorazepam have also
been used to treat various symptoms of autism. Talk to your doctor about which
drugs, if any, might help with your child’s particular symptoms.