Autism Treatment: Guidelines
The Autism Society of America's Panel of Professional Advisors has developed Guidelines to evaluate theories and practices related to autism. Listed here are a few of the things to consider as you evaluate treatment options:
- Will the treatment result in harm to the child?
- How will failure of the treatment affect my child and family?
- Has the treatment been validated scientifically?
- Are there assessment procedures specified?
- How will the treatment be integrated into the child's current program? Do not become so infatuated with a given treatment that functional curriculum, vocational life and social skills are ignored.
In addition, consider the following questions when asking about specific treatments (compiled by the National Institute of Mental Health):
- 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 are activities planned and organized?
- Are there predictable daily schedules and routines?
- How much individual attention will my child receive?
- How is progress measured?
- Will my child's behavior be closely observed and recorded?
- Will my child be given tasks and rewards that are personally motivating?
- Is the environment designed to minimize distractions?
- Will the program prepare me to continue the therapy at home?
- What is the cost, time commitment, and location of the program?
Learn more about:
- General Standards of Care
- Early Intervention
- Parent's Choice/Options Policy
General Standards of Care
Treatment approaches are evolving as more is learned about autism. There are many therapeutic programs, both conventional and complementary, that focus on replacing dysfunctional behaviors and developing specific skills.
As a parent, it's natural to want to do something immediately. However, it is important not to rush in with changes. Your child may have already learned to cope with his or her current environment and changes could be stressful. You should investigate various treatment approaches and gather information concerning various options before proceeding with your child's treatment.
You will encounter numerous accounts from parents about successes and failures with many of the treatment approaches mentioned. You will also discover that professionals differ in their theories of what they feel is the most successful treatment for autism. It can be frustrating! But you will learn to sift through them and make rational, educated decisions on what is appropriate for your child. You live with your child every day and you know his/her needs. And in time, you will come to know his/her autism. Trust your instincts as you explore various options.
Again, please keep in mind that the descriptions of treatment approaches provided here are for informational purposes only. They are meant to give you an overview of an approach. The Autism Society of America does not endorse any specific treatment or therapy. For more information about the ASA's policy on options, click here.
During your research, you will hear about many different treatments approaches, such as auditory training, discrete trial training, vitamin therapy, anti-yeast therapy, facilitated communication, music therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and sensory integration. These approaches can generally be broken down into three categories:
- Behavioral & Communication Approaches
- Biomedical & Dietary Approaches
- Complimentary Approaches
Some of these treatment approaches have research studies that support their efficacy; others may not. Some parents will only want to try treatment methods that have undergone research and testing and are generally accepted by the professional community. But keep in mind that scientific studies are often difficult to do since each individual with autism is different.
For others, formal testing might not be a pre-requisite for them to try a treatment with their child. Even for those with "scientific" proof, we recommend that the family or caregiver investigate all options available to determine the appropriateness to their child.
Experts agree though, that early intervention is important in addressing the symptoms associated with autism. The earlier treatment is started, the better the chance the child will reach normal functioning levels. Many of the approaches described can be used on children as young as age 2 or 3. They may also continue to be used in conjunction with special education programs or traditional elementary school for children who are mainstreamed.
Reprinted with the permission of the Autism Society.
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