The first thing that must be realized is that as of now, there is no known cure for autism. What must be discovered first is the cause of autism and where the 'common pathway', or the part of the brain which all the different biological factors have in common so that after scientist discover this, they may begin on looking for a way to fix this malfunctioning or damaged area, possibly curing autism all together! Autism (or some form of pervasive development disorder (PDD)) effects over one half million people in the US, but, despite this being one of the most common developmental disabilities, most of the public remain unaware of how to effectively work with autistic individuals, this may impart result from their being so many differentiating symptoms between individuals. In other words, there is no known cure.
Since there is no known cause to which all autism can be contributed and no known cure, one of the first problems professionals, parents, and those suffering from autism have is that it is very difficult to diagnose. Since treatment of the disorder can be greatly more effective if it is caught at the beginning stages or while the child is young, it is important that it be diagnosed quickly and treatment is begun immediately. This is why several checklists for autism have been developed. Tough some of these argue about the definition, the diagnosis of autism is based on criteria set forth by the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition ( or the DSM-IV) . 1
There is no specifically known medication or therapy, but the treatment available focuses on teaching behavioral skills, focussing on the educating process, trying to integrate children into school so that they may become productive members of society and can learn skills that will benefit them. It also focuses on providing a supportive integrated environment and behavioral aspects which will help them 'fit in' to societies view of normal, and on functional education, or, education that can be used by children with autism, recalled and used in different situations. The treatment also focuses on special needs care and child care which help integrate and provide support for individuals with autism and their families and it focuses on behavioral support within a daycare center (for younger children) which work with the child on an individual basis, providing routine and comfort.
Effective ways to educate are the use of visuals to accompany instruction, highly structured schedule of activities, parent and staff training and transition planning and follow-up.
No one approach will get rid of all the symptoms of autism
Some of the common therapies available are applied behavior analysis, auditory integration training, dietary interventions, discrete trial teaching, medications, music therapy, occupational therapy, PECS, physical therapy, sensory integration, speech/language therapy, TEACCH, vision therapy, communication therapy, social skill development, sensory integration therapy and applied behavior analysis . I'm not going through each of these individually because it would take me forever. 2
The main overall goal is that children with autism will function successfully in school and all other environments (including home). Early treatment is very noticeably beneficial and it is necessary that parents are allowed to get help before a through diagnosis is made and that there is a easy way to identify children with autism earlier on in the progression of autism so these services can be provided. (For information on the Diagnosis of Autism click here) Childcare workers that work with these children need special training designed to meet each child's needs. Individual programs must be formulated to the needs and special circumstances of each child than these individual programs are put into practice with their emphasis on integration. Some individuals with autism go into group homes when they reach puberty when it's beyond the capability of the family to control. Proper care is provided in these facilities to help supply the most beneficial lifestyle possible, but aside from this, mostly the task of raising an autistic child falls upon the parents, despite all the help provided. 3
Drugs and Adversives
Naloxone/naltrexone drugs counter the effects of natural endorphins produced by the brain. Studies have shown improvements in responsiveness, language, and stereotypic behaviors but an increase in anxiety and aggression often develops. Unfortunately, anxiety aggravates autism and these stereotypic behaviors(which provide a certain protection in people with autism), are taken away.
The use of SIBIS - electric shock therapy (basically a cattle prod), has also become a new adversative to treat individuals with autism. When an individual with autism exhibits 'undesirable' behaviors, they shock them. This is temporarily effective. These individuals will respond, eliminating abnormal behaviors, to avoid the electric shock but this will only remain effective only if the shock is continuously administered, and escalating the shock level. This is not effective because causing physical pain to the individual so that they may avoid other pain is no way to go about things, this is just inhumane.
Sadly, this is not the end of adversives used to control autism. The third one I will mention is the administration of a puff of ammonia into the nose of the individual suffering with autism. Keep in mind, one symptom is heightened senses, including smell. This works on the same principle as the SIBIS, and the result is much the same but I think this painful treatment should not be allowed, it is close to a form of torture. 5
1.Autism Society of British Columbia (formerly Pacific Association for Autistic Citizens), a panthlet ©1998
3.Autism - Little Victories (Video) T.H.A Media Distributors Ltd.
4.M.Campbell, J.Overall, A.Small, M.Skol, E.Spencer, P.Adams, R.Foltz, K.Monti, R.Perry, M.Nober and E.Roberts, "Naltrezone in autistic children : an acute open dose range tolerance trail," Journal of American Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Vol.28, 1980 p.204
5.Autism: Handle with Care! Buy Gail Gillingham Future Horizons, Inc., Arlington, Texas ©1995