Dealing with a diagnosis that says your child has an autism spectrum disorder can definitely present a challenge. For some parents, it can come as a complete surprise right out of left field, but for others such a diagnosis can be somewhat expected. Whatever the case may be for you personally, it’s important to realize that an autism spectrum diagnosis is far from the end of the world.
There is no known cause for autism. However, there are many ways you and your loved ones can learn to cope with the issue and improve the quality of life for the individual who received the diagnosis. These include medication options that can help people with severe cases of autism cope with some of the symptoms, as well as behavioral therapy options, educational approaches, and other alternatives.
Today’s medical professionals are far better educated and more knowledgeable in regards to autism than they were back in the days when sufferers would simply be institutionalized for issues no one really understood properly. Today’s autistic individuals can benefit from special training, information, professional support, and much more in order to flourish and prosper into viable, worthwhile adults capable of living full lives in every sense of the word.
The Importance of Finding the Right Solution for the Individual
One of the most important things to understand right up front before looking into treatment options for your autistic child is that there are no two cases of autism that are the same. That said, there is no one treatment option for autism that is going to be guaranteed effective for every individual.
It’s of the utmost importance that you work with your doctor in order to determine the best course of treatment for your individual situation. In many cases, this is going to encompass a variety of different options used in tandem with one another, as opposed to an out-of-the-box, one-size-fits-all option.
As touched on above, there is no such thing as a medication that can cure autism. However, there are a few options that make it possible to control some of the symptoms in order to improve a given individual’s quality of life and ability to cope in general. In fact, it is estimated that roughly 55% of autistic children take medication of one kind or another to help them manage symptoms.
“While there has been less progress in using medication to treat the core social and communicative impairments in autism, ongoing investigations of the brain basis of autism can lead to promising new therapies targeting specific neurotransmitter systems associated with autism,” says Stewart Mostofsky, PhD of Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore.
Consult with your doctor in regards to whether or not one of the following options may be right for you or your child:
- SSRIs: Many experts believe that children suffering from autism also suffer from abnormal levels of serotonin in the brain. For this reason, many doctors consider anti-depressants such as SSRIs to be effective in helping to manage symptoms. These include the obsessive-compulsive tendencies, aggression problems, and anxiety issues associated with many forms of autism.
- Antipsychotic Meds: Some autistic children with severe autism symptoms benefit from the inclusion of anti-psychotic medications such as lithium. These can have a calming effect on the patient and help to control symptoms associated with withdrawal and agitation.
- Psychostimulants: Some psychostimulants (such as Ritalin) can help hyperactive or overly impulsive patients deal with symptoms. In fact, a recent study that included 124 children showed that such medications helped to manage symptoms up to 69.4 percent of the time.
Doctors and medical professionals that prefer taking a more holistic approach to the treatment and management of autism often recommend dietary changes as supplement to more traditional or widely accepted treatment options. For instance, some patients have had good luck with gluten-free or casein-free diets, as food sensitivities are thought to aggravate certain symptoms associated with autism.
Others have experienced positive results with intestinal treatments, immune system regulation, vitamins, supplements, herbal treatments, and sulfation. Be sure to ask your own doctor or therapist if options like these may be right for you before making any changes in the diet of a particular autistic patient.
Although medical or biomedical solutions can help a given child or individual with autism improve their health and overall ability to cope with life, they rarely improve the person’s issues with behavior. That said, it’s critical that behavioral intervention be included as an effective course of treatment. For this reason, it’s recommended by experts that child diagnosed with autism begin seeing a therapist that specializes in behavioral therapy sooner rather than later.
Although technique will vary from therapist to therapist and individual to individual, most will revolve around what is known as “operant conditioning”. Operant conditioning involves discouraging bad behavior through punishment and rewarding good behavior through reward. Such techniques have been shown to improve the quality of the individual’s ability to interact socially, as well as cut down on the incidence of self-harm or aggressive tendency.
Some therapists will combine operant conditioning with cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is a similar approach that integrates the targeting of thought patterns into mix as well.
The importance of finding a good therapist with experience in treating autism is critical. They’ll have a much better understanding of what such individuals really need as far as management options go.
Other Treatment Options for Autism
Many doctors and health professionals will further integrate any combination of the treatment options above with other methods that have been proven to turn out good results with autism.
One of the most critical of these is social skills training, as this option has been shown to greatly improve personal function on an interpersonal level – a crucial area for autistic patients to focus on. Depending on the specific type of autism a given individual might be suffering from, they may have a lot of trouble reading the same signals the rest of us use to assess situations, such as body language and vocal tone. Social skills training can help the person learn to bridge the gap.
Some autistic children also benefit from concentrated efforts to integrate them into standardized classrooms, so this may be something else to speak to your family therapist or educational professional about. Some tips for making sure autistic students are properly integrated into a standardized classroom environment include use of clear language free of idioms, enforcement of proper social rules, organization, and the following of strict schedules.
Many autistic individuals, including those who have Asperger’s Syndrome, benefit from routines that remain regular and unchanged over time. Normal, non-autistic students can often benefit from the early training in regards to how to treat those who are different from them as well.
At the end of the day, treating and dealing with autism is far from impossible. However, it does take the implementation of patience and a proper understanding that not every autistic person is the same or will respond the same way to treatment. Be sure to talk to your physician and discuss individual treatments options that are best for your situation. It may be necessary to alternate between options before landing on the right one for you.
www.autism.about.com. Also personal experience (stepson dealing with autism).