Autism Spectrum Disorder – Treatment and Living With
April is Autism Awareness Month!
Two previous articles on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) covered the definition, signs/symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis and causes of ASD. This is the final article on the disorder and includes the treatment of and living with ASD. Since it is Autism Awareness Month it is the perfect month on which to end this series.
Treatment of ASD
Since there is no cure for ASD, treatment does not include a one size fits all and should encompass both home and school based interventions. The goal for treatment, as it is for all developmental disabilities, is to maximize the child’s ability to function by reducing symptoms and encouraging development and learning. Last month’s article stressed the importance of early diagnosis/intervention and its benefits. If a child is to reach their full potential the sooner treatment begins the better the results toward achieving this potential. In general, children with ASD respond best to highly structured treatment and environments.
Treatment options include:
• Behavior and communication therapies. These address difficulties that relate to ASD in social, language and behavioral areas. Therapies that address one or all of these can help a child learn to function better.
• Educational therapies. Highly structured educational programs are what children with ASD respond to best. Programs should include a team of specialists and individualized activities to improve social skills, motor skills, communication and behavior. Preschool children who receive intensive interventions in these areas often show good progress.
• Family therapies. It is important for parents and other family members to learn how to interact and play with their child to promote social interaction skills, manage behavior problems and teach daily living skills/communication.
• Medications. Certain medications can help control the symptoms of ASD. These can include antidepressants for anxiety, antipsychotics for severe behavior problems or medications for hyperactivity.
Living with ASD
Families raising a child with ASD can feel isolated and overwhelmed. It can be physically and emotionally draining.
• Finding a team of trusted professionals. The team will work with families to explain and access available resources in the area.
• Taking time off for yourself and other family members. Making time to relax, exercise or engage in other activities will help avoid burnout and lessen stress on the family and other personal relationships. Schedule time alone with your other children/spouse/partner.
• Seeking out other families of children with ASD. Other families can often give useful advice. Support/advocacy groups are an excellent resource.
• Learning about the disorder. Knowing the truth about ASD can dispel myths and misconceptions, while providing a better understanding about your child and how he/she is trying to communicate.
• Keeping records of visits to service providers. This can help parents decide about treatment options and to monitor progress.
• Staying current on new technologies and therapies.
Unfortunately there is no way to prevent ASD, but it can be treated, as noted above, allowing for improvement of skills in areas such as language and social interactions. Throughout their life, children with ASD continue to learn and compensate for problems, although some level of support is generally required dependent on the severity of symptoms. Individualized treatment strategies are key to maximizing functioning. Parents shouldn’t become discouraged as they go through the treatment process as several different interventions may need to be tried before finding the best combination of therapies for their child.