Autism: Treatment and Therapy
No two people with ASDs are exactly alike. So, each person with an ASD needs a treatment program to meet his or her individual needs and the needs of his or her family. While there is not yet a cure for ASDs, early, intensive treatment can help children with the disorder reach their full potential. Acting early can make a big difference! For guidance on choosing a treatment program, visit the Treatment Options section of the National Institute of Mental Health’s autism website.
It is important to remember that children with ASDs can get sick or injured just like children without ASDs. Regular medical and dental exams should be part of a child’s intervention plan. Often it is hard to tell if a child’s behavior is related to the ASD or is caused by a separate health condition. For instance, head banging could be a symptom of the ASD, or it could be a sign that the child is having headaches. In those cases, a thorough physical exam is needed.
Even if your child has not been diagnosed with an ASD, he or she may be eligible for early intervention services. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) says that children under the age of 3 who are at risk of having substantial developmental delays may be eligible for services. These services are provided through an early intervention system in your state. Through this system, you can ask for an evaluation. To learn more about early intervention, click here National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities.
- Behavioral and Educational Interventions
- Complementary and Alternative Medicine
- Dietary Changes
- Additional Treatment Resources
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, educational interventions thought to help children with ASDs are those that provide structure, direction, and organization for the child. These interventions must be individualized to the child and take into account his or her overall developmental status and specific strengths and needs. To learn more about these treatments and interventions, including specific strategies used by physicians to treat ASDs, refer to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ report on diagnosing and managing ASDs.
The National Institute of Mental Health says that psychosocial and behavioral interventions are key parts of comprehensive treatment programs for children with autism. Some of the most common interventions include:
- Applied behavior analysis (ABA)
- Discrete trial training (DTT)
- Early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI)
- Incidental teaching
- Pivotal response training (PRT)
- Verbal behavior intervention (VBI)
- Developmental, individual differences, relationship-based approach (DIR also called Floortime)
- Relationship development intervention (RDI)
- Treatment and education of autistic and communication- related handicapped children (TEAACH)
Therapies often used with those listed previously:
- Occupational therapy
- Sensory integration therapy
- Speech therapy
- The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
Go to Autism Speaks, one of CDC’s partners, to read more about these therapies.
For more information:
- Educating Children with Autism by the National Research Council. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2001.
- Preschool Education Programs for Children with Autism (2nd edition). Edited by J.S. Handleman and S. Harris. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed; 2000.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention content is free and public domain.
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