KEEN Education Foundation

Helping Special Needs Children Thrive

   Treatment of Autism

There is no "one-size-fits-all" treatment. In fact, the range of home-based and school-based treatments and interventions for autism can be overwhelming. Your doctor can help identify resources in your area that may work for your child. Treatment options may include:

Behavior and communication therapies
Many programs have been developed to address the range of social, language and behavioral difficulties associated with autism. Some programs focus on reducing problem behaviors and teaching new skills. Other programs focus on teaching children how to act in social situations or how to communicate better with other people. Though children don't outgrow autism, they may learn to function well with the disorder.

Educational therapies
Children with autism often respond well to highly structured education programs. Successful programs often include a team of specialists and a variety of activities to improve social skills, communication and behavior. Preschool children who receive intensive, individualized behavioral interventions show good progress.

Drug therapies
No medication can improve the core signs of autism, but certain medications can help control symptoms. Antidepressants may be prescribed for anxiety, for example, and antipsychotic drugs are sometimes used to treat severe behavioral problems.

Creative therapies
Some parents choose to supplement educational and medical intervention with art therapy, music therapy or sensory integration, which focuses on reducing a child's sensitivity to touch or sound.

Special diets
Several diet strategies have been suggested as possible treatments for autism, including restriction of food allergens; probiotics; a yeast-free diet; a gluten-free, casein-free diet; and dietary supplements such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and magnesium, folic acid, vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. The diet that has been tried most extensively — and with the greatest anecdotal success — eliminates gluten — a protein found in most grains, including wheat — and casein (a milk protein). To learn more, talk to a registered dietitian with special expertise in autism.

Chelation therapy
This treatment, which is recommended by some doctors and parents, is said to remove mercury from the body. But no studies have shown a link between mercury and autism, and chelation has not been shown to be a safe or effective treatment.

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