At this time, there is no cure for ASD. A treatment program will greatly improve the outlook for most young children. Most programs build on the interests of the child in a highly structured schedule of constructive activities.
Treatment plans may combine techniques, including:
- Applied behavior analysis (ABA)
- Medicines, if needed
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
- Speech-language therapy
APPLIED BEHAVIORAL ANALYSIS (ABA)
This program is for younger children. It helps in some cases. ABA uses one-on-one teaching that reinforces various skills. The goal is to get the child close to normal functioning for their age.
An ABA program is often done in a child's home. A behavioral psychologist oversees the program. ABA programs can be very expensive and aren't widely used by school systems. Parents often have to find funding and staffing from other sources, which aren't available in many communities.
Another program is called the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH). It uses picture schedules and other visual cues. These help children work on their own and organize and structure their environments.
Though TEACCH tries to improve a child's skills and ability to adapt, it also accepts the problems associated with ASD. Unlike ABA programs, TEACCH doesn't expect children to achieve typical development with treatment.
There is no medicine that treats ASD itself. But medicines are often used to treat behavior or emotional problems that people with ASD may have. These include:
- Attention problems
- Extreme compulsions that the child cannot stop
- Mood swings
- Sleep difficulty
Only the drug risperidone is approved to treat children ages 5 through 16 for the irritability and aggression that can occur with ASD. Other medicines that may also be used are mood stabilizers and stimulants.
Some children with ASD seem to do well on a gluten-free or casein-free diet. Gluten is in foods containing wheat, rye, and barley. Casein is in milk, cheese, and other dairy products. Not all experts agree that changes in diet make a difference. And not all studies have shown positive results.
If you're thinking about these or other diet changes, talk to both a doctor and a registered dietitian. You want to be sure that your child is still getting enough calories and the right nutrients.
Beware of widely publicized treatments for ASD that don't have scientific support, and reports of miracle cures. If your child has ASD, talk with other parents. Also discuss your concerns with ASD specialists. Follow the progress of ASD research, which is rapidly developing.