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History of Autism

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Is there a cure for autism?

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What is the treatment for autism?
Parents of a person with autism must constantly educate themselves about new treaments. There is more misinformation about autism than any other disorder. As the parent of an autistic child, you will be constantly bombarded by people who claim to cure autism. Yet, there is only one treatment that has passed the test of time and is effective for all children, autistic or normal, i.e., structural educational programs geared to a persons developmental level of functioning. Other treatments might be helpful at different points in an autistic person's life. You should always keep an open mind and educate yourself regarding new treatments as they become available. However, the majority of other treatments we hear about for autistic people have yet to be scientifically proven. It is imperative that parents educate themselves before making a treatment decision, remembering that what is right for one child may not be right for another. Treatment decisions should always be made individually after an assessment and based on what is appropriate for your child and family. Remember, you as a parent know your child better than anyone and also the type of program that is best going to help him/her.

How do I know if a treatment program is appropriate?
This is a difficult question to answer. Table I shows some general guidelines for evaluation of various treatment approaches.

Table I. Principles of New Evaluating Treatment of Autism

  1. Approach new treatment with hopeful skepticism. Remember the goal of any treatment should be to help the person with Autism become a fully functional member of society.
  2. Beware of any program or technique that is touted as effective or desirable for every person with autism.
  3. Beware of any program that thwarts individualization and potentially results in harmful program decisions.
  4. Be aware that any treatment represents one of several options for a person with autism.
  5. Be aware that treatment should always depend on individual assessment information that points to it as an appropriate choice for a particular child.
  6. Be aware that no new treatment should be implemented until its proponents can specify assessment procedures necessary to determine whether it will be appropriate for an individual with autism.
  7. Be aware that debate over use of various techniques are often reduced to superficial arguments over who is right, moral and ethical and who is a true advocate for the children. This can lead to results that are directly opposite to those intended including impediments to maximizing programs.
  8. Be aware that often new treatments have not been validated scientifically.

Table 2. Questions to ask Regarding Specific Treatment

  1. Will the treatment result in harm to the child?
  2. How will failure of the treatment affect my child and family?
  3. Has the treatment been validated scientifically?
  4. Are there assessment procedures specified?
  5. How will the treatment be integrated into the child's current program?

Do not become so infatuated with a given treatment that functional curriculum, vocational life and social skills are ignored.

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