Autism presents itself in so many different ways, so it makes sense that there are so many different types of autism treatments. The following are brief summaries of different treatment options and interventions available for autistic children.
Behavioral modification teaches autistic children to control inappropriate and repetitive behavior. Parent involvement is essential for behavioral modification, as changes need to be made at home as well as during therapy. Play therapy is a type of behavioral modification intervention designed to develop emotions and teach social skills.
Structured Education and Early Childhood Intervention
Structured education is vital for school-age autistic children. Ideally, the structured setting of an early childhood intervention program helps autistic children prepare for school life. Structured education focuses on keeping the child’s brain engaged. Otherwise, the autistic child’s tendency to withdraw into a private world and focus on only one or two topics limits his or her mental development.
Speech Language Therapy
Speech language therapy helps autistic children develop verbal and communication skills. The intervention of a speech-language pathologist teaches autistic children how to take part in conversations, how to identify body language and facial expressions, and how to make their own needs known to others.
Occupational therapy intervention develops motor skills and teaches the child how to deal with sensory stimulation. Occupational therapy intervention is especially important if the child is easily overwhelmed by sensory stimulation. Motor skills interventions help improve balance and agility.
Medical Autism Treatments and Medication
No medication exists for autism treatments, but a number of medications are used to treat secondary conditions that may arise from autism. Medications used to treat autistic children include antidepressants, hyperactivity medications, anticonvulsants, anxiety medication, and attention-stimulating medication.
Diet, Nutrition, and Autism Treatments
How autism responds to changes in diet and nutrition is a matter of controversy. Advocates of diet and nutrition treatments have suggested that vitamin B, magnesium, and cod liver oil all improve autism. A gluten-free diet has also been suggested as a possible treatment, as has a diet high in dimethylgylcine, a compound found in brown rice and liver.
No diet or nutrition treatments have been proven to affect autistic behavior. While a small percentage of cases may respond to nutrition changes, there is no scientific backing for diet treatments.
Alternative Autism Treatments
A number of alternative treatments have been proposed to modify autistic behavior. Music therapy, for instance, is supposed to be good for autistic children because they can respond non-verbally. As with diet and nutrition treatments, the evidence supporting alternative autism treatments is sketchy. More research is needed to determine if music therapy and other alternative treatments have practical applications.
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Wright State University. (updated 1999). Overview of augmentative communications. Retrieved October 20, 2003, from www.cs.wright.edu/bie/rehabengr/AAC/overview.htm.