No treatments for autism exist to cure the condition. Instead experienced experts in treating autism focus on specialized educational and behavioral therapies. A program designed for the child’s unique needs provides the most favorable outcomes. The sooner treatment can begin, the more positive the results, making routine checkups and early diagnosis critical.
Applied behavioral treatment options for autism seek to teach social and motor skills and improve cognitive thinking ability. Some approaches modify behavior and help reduce or eliminate behavior that leads to withdrawal and lack of communication. Because children vary widely in their particular needs, the program must be designed for each individual. The best results come from intensive therapy that involves parents in home-based approaches during early childhood. The goal is to shape and reinforce necessary behavior and reduce or eliminate undesirable behavior.
Treatments for autism recognize the child’s ability and limitations and should include:
- Learning activities designed to challenge the child at the right time
- Language instruction
- Providing a high degree of structure and routine
- Self-help and daily living skills
- School preparation skills such as recognizing letters and counting
TEECH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication handicapped Children) is a highly structured educational program that uses pictures and other visual cues in the development of social skills, language and speech, self-care and job skills.
Medication may help in alleviating some symptoms of the disorder such as aggression, hyperactivity, tantrums, sleep difficulty, mood swings, anxiety, impulsiveness and attention problems. Antidepressants can be helpful, but their use must be monitored carefully as they have been shown to increase depression in some cases and generate suicidal tendencies and other unusual changes in behavior. At times management of comorbid conditions (two conditions occurring at the same time) becomes necessary.
Adjustments to diet are another treatment option for autism. A diet free of gluten found in grains and casein found in dairy products seems to help some children, although not all experts agree that dietary changes are effective.