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.

Speech Therapy

Nearly all people with autism have some issues with speech and language. These issues can be obvious; numerous people with autism are non-verbal or are unable to use speech well. Alternatively issues with speech can be unrelated to articulation or grammar but rather to “speech pragmatics” (using speech to build social relationships). For a variety of autistic people, speech and language therapy is likely to beneficial.

Biomedical Treatments

Many biomedical abnormalities have been identified in association with autism, and most can be treated. Using biomedical treatments, many children will improve to some degree, and some will improve significantly. Occasionally one treatment will show great improvement, but more often each treatment helps a small amount. The cumulative effect of multiple treatments can have a considerable impact.

Biomedical treatments for autism may consist of pharmaceuticals, but biomedical treatments can also include special diets, supplements, and alternative treatments. There are many anecdotal stories of these treatments having positive outcomes despite not having been approved by the FDA or CDC.

One of the most researched biomedical treatments for autism is the use of high-dose supplementation of vitamin B6 with magnesium which has shown an improvement in 45-50% of those studied.

Social Skills Therapy

Many children with autism need assistance with the social skills they need to hold a conversation, make a new friend, or even find their way around a park. Social skills therapists assist by setting up and facilitating social interactions with peers.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy concentrates on fostering day to day life skills. Occupational therapy can be very important in response to delays in fine motor skills. Some autistic people also need help managing hypersensitivity to sound, light and touch. Sensory integration therapy, which some occupational therapists may also have training, can help manage this hypersensitivity.

Physical Therapy

As many autistic people have gross motor delays, and some have low muscle tone. Physical therapy can be a great way to build up strength and coordination.

Behavior Therapy

Children with autism often have to deal with frustration. They have difficulty communicating their needs, are misunderstood, and can suffer from hypersensitivities to sound, light and touch. Behavior therapists are trained to find out what could be causing negative behaviors, and to advise improvements to routines and environments to alleviate frustration.

Applied Behavior Analysis

Applied Behavior Analysis is one type of behavior therapy.  ABA improves behavior by setting up, and evaluating interaction with different environments.

As long as there are intact brain functions to learn and practice skills, a behaviorist can teach how to talk, play, and live as a complex social creature. For many children, the difficulties of autism come from a learning ‘blockage,’ which can be overcome by intensive teaching.