There is no single, definitive treatment for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). However, there is exciting research that shows early behavioral interventions help to maximize each child’s potential. Early diagnosis, followed by comprehensive and intensive early interventions, can produce better outcomes for many children with autism.
Treatments options include but are not limited to:
- Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) or related intensive behavioral treatment
- Social skills interventions
- Relationship-based therapies (e.g., Floor time, Pivotal Response Training)
- Speech/language therapy (which may also address social skills)
- Occupational therapy (which may also address sensory issues)
- Physical therapy
Medical options, which may include medications or diets aimed at treating the symptoms of autism such as aggression toward self or others and difficulty attending to important aspects of the environment. NOTE: Currently there is no medication that can cure ASD or all of their symptoms.
Choosing the most appropriate option
Parents are their child's first and best teacher as well as their strongest advocate. Over time, parents also become experts about their child's abilities and disabilities. Discuss intervention options with your child's primary care doctor, the specialists who diagnosed your child, your local school district, or state agencies that provide assistance such as the Division of Developmental Disabilities Missouri Department of Mental Health. Information is also available in the brochure, “Could My Child Have Autism?” (PDF)
Additionally, you can gain information from autism support groups such as Missouri Families for Effective Autism Treatment (MO-FEAT) and the Autism Society of America or Autism Speaks. As you learn from other parents, professionals, and your own child, you will feel more comfortable in choosing interventions which best match your child’s needs; each family will decide “what fits” for them.
The most successful programs start during early childhood, address intensive behavior management as well as communication and social skills development, and encourage parent involvement.
Importance of early intervention
Early diagnosis and intervention are important because research indicates that the earlier treatment begins, the better the outcomes for children. Behavioral symptoms associated with autism are often observable by eighteen months of age or before.
The First Steps program for children birth through age two provides treatment services to eligible children. For more information, contact your local school district or the First Steps office nearest you.