Saturday, August 6, 2011

Alternative Treatments for Children With Autism

(For easier reading and flow, I have used he/him/his throughout this article. Obviously these words are interchangeable with she/her)

"That alternative treatment is unproven by medical science. Don't waste your money. Wait until the research has been done and published in peer-reviewed medical journals." That's easy for you don't have to live with a child with autism day after day, and see him wasting away in the face of his hidden potential. A child who held the promise of being a normal, intelligent child, who is now trapped under the mask of autism. I am talking about the child with autism who can't communicate. He bites his fingers, bangs his head against the wall, huddles in the corner of his bedroom covering his head with a blanket and moans, as he tries to shut out frustrating environmental sounds, sights and smells that he can't make sense of, or internal sensations and pain that he can't communicate. If you try to comfort him, he becomes aggressive. You don't know what to do. You can only watch as the tears run down your face.

Being a parent of a child with autism makes you feel every emotion possible. It's frightening, disappointing, lonely, and frustrating. You feel angry, trapped, and financially drained. But sometimes it's humorous, enlightening and educational. And there are rare moments when you feel absolutely joyous because he shows you a skill that you never knew he had. You didn't teach it to him. It was there all the time - trapped. But because of a so-called unproven treatment, the skill emerged. And you are one step closer to knowing your child.

Interventions can be educational, behavioral, therapeutic, psycho pharmacological, and/or bio-medical. A multi-treatment approach is most likely to reap the best results over time - a long time. But who can afford all of it and where do you start?

The good news is that there is an abundance of information on the internet about alternative treatments for autism. The bad news is that there is an abundance of information on the internet for alternative treatments for autism. There are so many unproven and expensive alternative treatments for children with autism, some of which are very beneficial for some children with autism, but not others. How are parents supposed to sort through it all? They must spend hundreds of hours educating themselves and then use their gut instincts to make the right choices for their family.

Recent studies have shown that many children with autism have significant co-existing medical (physiological) conditions that need to be addressed. However, because of the lack of proper evidence of the effectiveness of biomedical treatments, most medical doctors won't even test their patients with autism for possible physiological conditions. But an abundance of anecdotal evidence exists that some of these treatments can be very effective. Most medical doctors, who have spent some time researching biomedical treatments for autism, will agree that they are definitely worth a trial despite the fact that this is an emerging field, and clear-cut treatment protocols are lacking.

Even with a proven intervention such as ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis, Lovaas) the rate of effectiveness is controversial. The literature shows that intensive behavioural therapy clearly benefits children with autism; however, the original effectiveness claim by Lovaas was overstated. In the original controlled study and its follow-up, the 19 children with autism who were treated intensively with behaviour therapy for 2 years were reported to gain an average of 30 IQ points, while nearly half of them were able to participate in mainstream education and were indistinguishable from their peers. However, both controlled and uncontrolled published studies have failed to corroborate the original claim of achieving normal functioning. There are so many variables; such as the age of the child, the severity of the autism, the quality and intensity of the program, the skills of the instructor-therapist and program supervisor, etc. All of these will make a difference as to whether or not a child will benefit from ABA or Intensive Behavioural Intervention, and to what degree.

You may have heard the phrase...If you meet one child with autism; you have met one child with autism. Due to the fact that each child with autism will have a different combination of a variety of issues that present themselves as autistic symptoms, each child will require an extremely individualized treatment plan. A combination of biomedical interventions and therapeutic, educational, and behavioral programs such as Intensive Behavioral Intervention can have profound effects. So parents have to educate themselves and be their child's own case manager. This is a daunting task for many parents since they are already overwhelmed with their child's needs.

You may have heard that early intervention is essential. However, through no fault of your own, your child may not have been diagnosed early by a medical doctor. Time doesn't stand still, and while you are enduring long waiting lists for government services, and trial-and-error treatments, your child will continue to age. But no matter how old your child gets, never give up on him.

Visit AFASE at School to join the only doctor directed biomedical website that educates and empowers you to treat and possibly recover your child from autism.

For more resources to help you ensure that your children are getting the best from their educational program, browse through my site and sign up to receive my free advocacy tips and news.

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