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Stacking Blocks

Treatment

January 4, 2021

While there is no “cure” for Autism, there are several effective interventions that can improve a child’s functioning:

Applied behavioral analysis

This involves systematic study of the child’s functional challenges, which is used to create a structured behavioral plan for improving their adaptive skills and decreasing inappropriate behavior.

  • Social skills training: Done in group or individual settings, this intervention helps   children with autism improve their ability to navigate social situations

  • Speech & language therapy: It can improve the child’s speech patterns and understanding of language

  • Occupational therapy: This address adaptive skills deficits with activities of daily living, as well as problems with handwriting

  • Parent management training: Parents learn effective ways of responding to problematic behavior and encouraging appropriate behavior in their child. Parent support groups help parents cope with the stressors of raising a child with autism

  • Special education services: Under an Individual Education Plan provided by their school, which accommodates for their social communication deficits, restricted interests, and repetitive behaviors, children with autism can achieve their fullest potential academically. This includes special day classes for very young children to address language, social, and life skills. 

  • Treating co-occurring conditions: Children with autism experience insomnia, anxiety, and depression more often than peers without autism. They also more often have ADHD. Children with autism may have intellectual disability and this needs to be addressed. The impact of these conditions can be reduced with the proper services, which include all of the above, in addition psychotherapy and/or medication treatment

  • Medication: A child psychiatrist can evaluate for co-morbid depression, anxiety, and impulsivity. If appropriate medications can be helpful. For example, autism-related irritability can be reduced by medications such as aripiprazole and risperidone (the two medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration for irritability associated with autism), prescribed judiciously by a knowledgeable clinician in collaboration with the child’s parents.

Several complementary and alternative interventions involving special diets and supplements have been tried over the years by parents/caregivers seeking ways to help their child with autism function better. To date compelling evidence has not been found to clearly recommend any such specific interventions. Research into these types of interventions continues, and parents/caregivers interested in them should discuss them with their child’s treating clinician.

Treatment: Research
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