Sadly, a definitive cure for autism, a disabling neurological disorder, has yet to be found. Affected children can grow up suffering from speech impairment, difficulties in social interaction, abnormal learning and an inability to enjoy many of life's experiences which we all take for granted. It has been shown that early diagnosis and intervention can help to minimize the problem and therapies can give the unfortunate patient a certain measure of independence and show him or her how to cope.
Numerous options are available within a wide variety of therapy programs. Treatment is very much dependent on an individual's needs and most professionals agree that it is best started no later than the age of two. Sometimes a combination of treatments and programs will yield the best results, but it should be known that the condition generally requires treatment for the life of the patient and the caregiver should maintain flexibility of approach.
Generally speaking, treatments and therapy programs can be broken down into four distinct areas - behavioral, supplemental, dietary and medical. Some of these represent established programs, whilst others are experimental and it is important to remember that there are a lot of avenues to explore as the chase for the definitive cure goes on.
Behavioral therapies deal with modification techniques, to assist the patient to gain job skills and to enable them to function in their environment. For example, Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, entails the teaching of skill oriented activities. Patients are rewarded as they learn fun skills and their behavior skills develop. This is a highly structured program, with intensive one-on-one interaction between a child and a therapist. This form of treatment is generally suggested to be the most effective, but many critics think that the approach is somewhat "robotic" and does not encourage the child to be spontaneous in adapting to the real world.
As opposed to applied behavior analysis, pivotal response therapy is considered to be more natural, taking place in a more relaxed environment, and supporters of this method believe that this approach can trigger a ripple effect to other behaviors, achieving a better all round result.
When it comes to supplemental therapies, many people with autism respond favorably to sensory stimulation. Patients are encouraged to hold objects with various textures or listen to music, for example. The Tomatis method entails the playing of a loop of music to a child for several hours a day with the goal of improving attention and concentration.
Language programs are of the utmost importance. Sometimes a program is introduced enabling patients to interact through the use of visual stimulants, such as pictures, enabling the child to communicate wants and needs through image exchange.
When it comes to dietary therapies, some professionals advocate that children with autism should be placed on special diets, basically casein or gluten free. Studies have shown that a high percentage of children with the affliction suffer from chronic gastrointestinal issues. Gluten, found in wheat products, and casein, found in milk products, are the culprits. Whilst this form of treatment calls for significant dietary control, many other experts caution against its' effectiveness.
Medical treatments for autism include the use of vaccines and some more, particularly controversial therapies, including chelation, which involves the injection of a form of acid into the blood to remove or improve metabolic functioning. Others advocate the use of antidepressant drugs such as Prozac to treat certain behavior problems associated with autism, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or to help in controlling tantrums.
Autism is diagnosed in approximately one out of every 150 children. It is generally accepted that early diagnosis and intervention is crucial to enable the child to gain social skills, behavior skills and experience a release from isolation.
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