Treating Autism – An Array of Options

Trawling the internet for literature on autism treatments can be a daunting task.  As you start digging, you’ll find dozens of options available.  As every child’s needs are different, it is nearly impossible to find the “best” treatments.

Below are a selection of some of the most well known and researched treatments most likely to have a positive outcome.  However, it is important to remember that often treatment options work best when used in conjunction with others.  Trial and error can be the best way to figure out what treatment plan will best suit an individual’s particular issues.

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4th Grader Forced Into Ball Bag To “Control His Autistic Behavior”

9-year-old Christopher Baker was forced into a ball bag and the drawstring pulled tight by school employees as a way to “to control his autistic behavior”. His mother said she found him squirming inside as a teacher’s aide stood by.

The case has caused outrage amongst advocates for the autistic, even spurring an online petition calling for the firing of school employees responsible.

Approaching his classroom on Dec. 14, Chris’ mother, Sandra Baker, saw the gym bag. There was a small hole at the top and she heard a familiar voice calling out to her.

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Environment Factors in on Autism Causes

The weight of the roles of environmental factors versus genetic factors in the cause of autism has frequently shifted. A study is now suggesting that environmental factors may play a larger role than was previously thought.

The study published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, reports that scientists at Stanford University identified 192 pairs of twins in which at least one of the two had some form of autism. Among these sets, there were 54 pairs of identical and 138 pairs of fraternal twins. The researchers then examined the children for autism themselves. What they found was that the genes twins share can increase the risk of getting autism by about 38%, but the environment twins share in the womb and immediately after birth may increase the risk even more – an estimated 58%.

Dr. Joachim Hallmayer, “A California Population-Based Twin Study of Autism,”  study’s lead author said that the study shows a “need to accept that we have to go down the route of environment and genetics,” when it comes to studying the causes of autism, “we have to look at both sides of coin.”

Autism becomes apparent by the time a child turns 3 and begins to show significant social, communication and behavioral difficulties. Historically, neglectful parenting was thought to be the cause of ASDs. Later in the century, scientists gave more weight to genetics when it was found that several specific genes are linked to autism.

Recently, scientists have been saying that there has to be something else triggering autism in genetically susceptible children. Hallmayer says, “We’re finally moving to a little bit of a middle position and we have to really study both factors.” His study adds more weight to the argument that both aspects are key to understanding autism.

Children with Autism Benefit from Training with their Traditional Education Peers

According to researchers, peer-mediated education and intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can provide a better and more resilient outcome than adult-led individual child-focused strategies.

The study, published by the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, found that children with ASD who attended regular education classes and are coached by their typically progressing peers, who have been trained on how to interact with peers with ASD, were more likely to improve their social skills, including less time spent alone on playgrounds and more classmates naming them as a friend.

“Real life doesn’t happen in a lab, but few research studies reflect that,” said Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health. “As this study shows, taking into account a person’s typical environment may improve treatment outcomes.”

The most common type of social skills intervention for children with ASD is direct training of a group of children with social challenges, who might have different disorders or be from different classes or schools.

The study, done by Connie Kasari, Ph.D., of the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues, compared 60 children, ages 6-11, with ASD using different interventions. The four interventions included: child-focused: direct, one-on-one training between the child with ASD and intervention provider, peer-mediated: group training with the intervention provider for three typically developing children from the same classroom as the student with ASD, both child-focused and peer-mediated interventions or neither interventions. All interventions were given for 20 minutes two times a week for six weeks.

Kasari said, “Anytime we involved typical peers with the children with autism we found out that more children in the classroom nominated that child or selected that child as a friend, played with them on the playground more often, and connected with the child. The other model, where we just had an adult work with a child, wasn’t as effective.”

This study is suggesting that an indirect method of education may yield higher results in social skill development for children with ASD and furthermore that one on one child-focused intervention may only be effective when paired with peer-mediated intervention

A follow-up was conducted 12 weeks after the end of the study showing long- term progress such as increased social connections despite a change of peers or classrooms.

Further studies are needed to explore these factors as well as the effect of other combinations of intervention and education methods.



Overall Functioning in Adults with Autism Significantly Improves with Antidepressant Treatment

Repetitive Behaviors Also Significantly Decrease

NEW YORK, NY. (December 8, 2011) — A new study led by Dr. Eric Hollander, Chairman of the Advisory Council of The International Center for Autism Research and Education (ICare4Autism), demonstrates for the first time that the antidepressant fluoxetine produces an improvement in overall functioning and a decrease in repetitive behaviors in a significant number of adults with autism spectrum disorders.

The study, funded by the Orphan Products Division of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), will be published this month in The American Journal of Psychiatry, the official journal of the American Psychiatric Association.  Its findings have important clinical implications.

To read the full article in The American Journal of Psychiatry, click here.

Notes Dr. Hollander, Director of the Autism Spectrum Program of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, “While research on medications for the core features of autism spectrum disorders is still in the early stages, successful treatments could greatly improve the daily lives of patients and their families.”

ICare4Autism founder and CEO Dr. Joshua Weinstein hailed the new study as “groundbreaking work that will lead to novel therapeutic interventions with the potential to help the vast and rapidly growing population of adults with autism all over the world.”

Contact: Kim Robinson


ICare4Autism and Haifa University Break New Ground in Applied Autism Technology

HAIFA, ISRAEL – December 2, 2011

On November 22, 2011, more than 400 researchers, educators, technologists and parent advocates gathered at the University of Haifa to attend the day-long ICare4Autism Applied Autism Technology Conference to learn about the latest interventions and technological advances now available to help meet the needs of children with autism.

The Conference, which focused on new applications of media and technology tools to increase social skills, speech and language, independence and learning for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), was the most recent in a series of ICare4Autism events designed to meet the needs of autism communities throughout the diverse regions of Israel.

The Conference, developed by Dr. Joshua Weinstein, ICare4Autism’s Founder and CEO, working in close collaboration with Haifa University Professors Tamar Weiss and Dr. Eynat Gal, explored ways in which Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC) Devices and other new technologies achieved very significant positive effects on the communication, social and behavioral skills of children with autism.

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