Making Sense Of Treatment Options

Use only autism treatment methods  that have evidence to support their effectiveness. Unproven treatment methods are typically ineffective and some are actually be dangerous. Here Dr. Michael Kelley discusses treatment option for people with autism.  

While there is no known cure for autism, in recent years very promising and significant progress has been achieved in improving outcomes and the quality of life for individuals with autism and their families.
Today, health care professionals, educators and the community at large are all much better informed about autism and treatment methods that are scientifically proven to be effective. 

With appropriate services, support, training and information, children on the autism spectrum can grow, learn and flourish, even if at a different developmental rate than others. Research has shown that Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, is the only consistently proven and effective treatment approach for people with autism. ABA has become widely accepted among health care professionals and is used in many schools and ASD treatment clinics. 

Today, ABA is widely recognized as a safe and effective treatment for autism. It has been endorsed by a number of state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Surgeon General and the New York State Department of Health. Over the last decade, in the U.S. there been a particularly dramatic increase in the use of ABA to help persons with autism live happy and productive lives.

In particular, ABA principles and techniques can foster basic skills such as looking, listening and imitating, as well as complex skills such as reading, conversing and understanding another person's perspective.

If your child has been diagnosed with autism, please do not wait to begin ABA therapy. It is critical to start ABA intervention as soon as possible. There are also other intervention methods, that when employed in concert with ABA therapy, can certainly be helpful for people with autism.

Autism affects a person's ability to communicate and interact with others, and can include such symptoms as having trouble talking about their feelings, having delayed speech and language skills, and repeating words or phrases over and over.

Speech and language therapy, as well as occupational and physical therapy, can be helpful in addressing some of these challenges. These services should be carried out by qualified speech-language pathologists and occupational therapists who are experienced in working with children diagnosed with autism. 

Parents and researchers have also long known that attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, often accompanies autism. Studies have shown that ADHD medications improve quality of life for many people. Research on how well these medications work for persons who are also affected by autism is ongoing. 

In all case, it is of utmost importance to collect and analyze data when using intervention methods for an individual with autism. If a therapist or intervention profession claims to have an effective intervention method, they should have data and evidence to support that claim. 

We cannot emphasize enough that if you pursue a treatment approach that does not have evidence and data to support its claims of effectiveness, you could be robbing your child of critical time that could otherwise be devoted to treatments and intervention, such as a ABA therapy, that have been proven to be effective.  

Unfortunately, few conditions have been as fraught with fad, controversy, unsupported, disproven, and unvalidated treatments as autism. The Food and Drug Administration, the FDA, has begun cracking down on quack cures and treatments for autism. Some of these quack treatments include unfounded, overstated, or frankly false claims.

Claims that natural or organic foods, or antioxidant ingredients can help people with autism have no basis in fact. Among the other sham treatments facing possible legal action by the FDA are chelation therapies meant to bind and remove harmful chemicals from the body.

BE AWARE that that if you chose to pursue an approach that is not evidenced-based, please do so in parallel to providing ABA therapy or else you will be denying your child the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.

And BEWARE of treatments that may, in fact, lead to results that are directly opposite to the intended goal of helping your child lead the fullest life possible.

Do not skip evidenced-based therapies, such as ABA, that have been proven to be effective while you investigate other alternatives.

Critically, Applied Behavior Analysis is an evidenced based approach and a child's progress is tracked and measured using statistical data. Tracking and measuring results over large groups of individuals is how we know that ABA is an effective method of intervention for people with autism.

If you suspect your child may have autism, don't wait - get a diagnosis from a licensed psychologist immediately. And if your child has been diagnosed with autism, immediately begin a program of ABA intervention. Your general practitioner or pediatrician will be able to refer you to a therapist educated and certified to conduct ABA intervention therapy. Don't wait!

Please use independent judgment and request references when considering any resource associated with diagnosis or treatment of autism or its associated medical conditions. The information in this Autism Advisor tool kit is solely for educational purposes, not medical advice.