TREATMENT: Part 3
Local school systems may provide special services to help a child with autism learn and develop. This can include speech therapy and occupational therapy. Schools are required to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each child. Children with autism may qualify for early intervention or extended school year services. If you are concerned about your child, be an advocate and ask the school to develop an IEP.
There's no medical treatment for autism itself, but medicine may help with some symptoms. Anti-psychotic medicines may be given for serious behavior problems. One drug in this category, Risperdal, has FDA approval to help with aggression, self-injury, and tantrums in autistic children. If seizures are an issue, an anti-convulsant drug may help. Drugs that treat depression are sometimes prescribed. A child’s response to medications should be closely monitored.
Treatment: Sensory Processing:
Children with autism may be extremely sensitive to sounds, touch, taste, sights, or smells – similar to a condition known as sensory processing disorder. For example, they may be upset by bright flashing lights or a school bell. A small study by Temple University researchers found that helping children adjust to different sensations led to fewer autistic mannerisms and better behavior.
Autism and Assistive Technology:
Even nonverbal children can talk with new devices that are designed to convert pictures or text to spoken words. The technology includes pocket-sized devices and "apps" for smart phones or computer tablets. Autism Speaks, an advocacy organization, maintains a list of resources for families.
Autism and Diet:
Digestive problems are common in children with autism, and about 30% of them may eat nonfood items such as dirt or paper. Some parents have tried a diet free of gluten (found in wheat) and casein (a milk protein). Other diet changes, including the supplements B6 and magnesium, have been used. So far, there's not enough evidence to show that any diet plan works. A doctor should supervise trial diets to ensure good nutrition.
The internet is full of unusual treatments for autism offered to desperate parents. To learn if a treatment is safe and effective, first check with your child's health care team. The Autism Society of America has a good list of questions parents can ask providers of new or unorthodox treatments. Some can be dangerous, including chelation therapy.