Thursday, July 26, 2012

How Is Autism Treated

There have been stories and tales of a cure or magical treatment for autism. These claims are not true. They set up the hopes and dreams of both parents and teachers alike only to be disenchanted with the discovery that the claim is false. There has only been one proven treatment for autism and the treatment is not a cure. The treatment is an educational program that individually fits the autistic child's abilities and works around the disabilities to teach the child alternative forms of communication and behavioral skills which will allow them some semblance of a normal adulthood. When an autistic child reaches school age, there will be a meeting of professionals including a psychologist, doctors, parents, speech therapists, and other interested parties who will draw up an individualize education program for the child. The program will look at the abilities of the child and what level of achievement the child has had in the parent's home and outside services. Mainstreaming the child into regular classrooms is the goal of the program, but the child will be pulled out of mainstream classes in order to provide special services which may include a speech instructor or an behavior specialist who works on both the communication process and the behavior associated with autism.
There are advocates that autistic children should be brought out of the mainstream classes and put into a more restrictive environment that will limit the sensory items that might distract or upset the child. The autistic child needs to have a pattern in their lives and in the mainstream classroom; the hustle and bustle of public education settings may lead them to sensory overload. Not only that but the social aspect of being different and not being able to contribute or communicate to the rest of the class can be heartbreaking to both the student and the teachers involved. The self-contained class room will break down tasks into manageable chunks that the child can be successful and maybe eventually learn.
The treatment process goes on both at home and at school. The autistic child must be taught how to appropriately interact with others. A common behavior in autistic children is to take off their clothes. They see no sense of wrong or right by being nude in public. Such behaviors need time and patience to mend and some methods might work for one child and then be completely a failure for others. Parents, teachers, and medical professionals need to keep abreast of new treatments so that they can replace a treatment or method that has been proven a failure for a particular child. Sometimes the behavior cannot be changed at all and the individualize education program must come up with strategies to deal with the behavior.
Parents and teachers must remember that the autism is a life long condition and as the child moves through life the treatments must change to fit the life period of that child.  The changes are not understood by the child, but like Pavlov's dog, a conditioned response may be instilled in the child and the proper behavior may be a learned response.
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