Autism Treatment: Guidelines (page 4)
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.
The Autism Society of America recognizes the importance of intensive early intervention for young children across the autism spectrum, including those labeled with autism, Asperger's syndrome, and other pervasive developmental disorders. While these children share a common diagnostic label, each has individual needs. Because of the individual differences among these children, the Autism Society of America supports an individualized approach that addresses the core deficits of autism spectrum disorders (e.g., communication, social, sensory, academic difficulties) and that matches each family's preferences and needs. In designing effective programs, the Autism Society of America encourages professionals and family members to consider the following components:
- A curriculum which addresses deficit areas, which focuses on long-term outcomes, and which considers the developmental level of each child. Deficit areas include:
- Inability to attend to relevant aspects of the environment, to shift attention, and to imitate language and the actions of others;
- Difficulty in social interactions including appropriate play with toys and others, and symbolic and imaginative play; and
- Difficulty with language comprehension and use, and functional communication.
- Programs which capitalize on children's natural tendency to respond to visual structure, routines, schedules, and predictability.
- Focus on generalization and maintenance of skills, using technology such as incidental teaching approaches.
- Effective and systematic instructional approaches which utilize technology associated with applied behavior analysis, including chaining, shaping, discrete trial format, and others.
- Coordinated transitions between service delivery agencies, including 0-2 programs, early intervention/preschool programs, and kindergarten environments.
- Use of the technology associated with functional behavioral assessment and positive behavioral supports when involved with a child who presents behavioral challenges.
- Family involvement, including coordination between home and involved professionals, an in-home training component, and family training and support.
The Autism Society of America encourages applied research to determine those interventions and approaches that are most effective for all children with autism spectrum disorders, and to encourage common usage of these practices for each child with an autism spectrum disorder, regardless of geographical location.
- Prepared by the Autism Society of America Panel of Professional Advisors. Approved: Autism Society of America Board of Directors, April 2000
Parent's Choice/Options Policy
The Autism Society of America promotes the active and informed involvement of family members and the individual with autism in the planning of individualized, appropriate services and supports. The Board of the Autism Society of America believes that each person with autism is a unique individual. Each family and individual with autism should have the right to learn about and then select, the options that they feel are most appropriate for the individual with autism. To the maximum extent possible, we believe that the decisions should be made by both the parents and the individual with autism.
Services should enhance and strengthen natural family and community supports for the individual with autism and the family whenever possible. The service option designed for an individual with autism should result in improved quality of life. Abusive treatment of any kind is not an option.
We firmly believe that no single type of program or service will fill the needs of every individual with autism and that each person should have access to support services. Selection of a program, service or method of treatment should be on the basis of a full assessment of each person's abilities, needs and interests. We believe that services should be outcome based to insure that they meet the individualized needs of a person with autism.
With appropriate education, vocational training and community living options and support systems, individuals with autism can lead dignified, productive lives in their communities and strive to reach their fullest potential.
The ASA believes that all individuals with autism have the right to access appropriate services and supports based on their needs and desires. (Adopted by the ASA Board of Directors 4/1/1995)
Reprinted with the permission of the Autism Society.
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