here is no cure for autism. But treatment may reduce symptoms and help people with autism function better. Experts disagree over the effectiveness of different treatments. Many treatments seemed promising when first introduced, but later proved disappointing. Because individuals respond in different ways, no single treatment works for everyone. Treatments include behavior modification, medication, facilitated communication, vitamin and mineral supplements, auditory training, and vision therapy.

Behavior modification involves analyzing the cause of an undesirable behavior, then using rewards and punishments or other approaches to replace the behavior with a more appropriate response. For instance, children who spin or flap their arms because of anxiety about a situation can be taught to say “stop” or point to a symbol for “stop.” Parents often collaborate with therapists in providing behavior therapy. Very intensive behavior programs, modeled on the teaching methods of American psychologist O. Ivar Lovaas, have yielded some of the best results. In such programs parents may provide therapy at home seven days a week for several years.

Physicians sometimes prescribe antipsychotic drugs, beta-blockers, anticonvulsants, and other medications to reduce self-abusive behavior, such as head banging and wrist biting. Some individuals with autism benefit from drugs that increase levels of serotonin, a brain chemical. These medications, which include fenfluramine (Pondimin), fluvoxamine (Luvox), and clomipramine (Anafranil), may reduce compulsive behavior and body movements. Other drugs that improve symptoms in some patients include naltrexone (ReVia), which blocks the action of natural opiate-like compounds in the brain, and haloperidol (Haldol), which interferes with the function of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Facilitated communication is based on the idea that people with autism are unable to communicate because of impaired body coordination. In this technique, a trained professional, or facilitator, supports the person’s hand over an alphanumeric keyboard. The person with autism learns to type messages and responses to questions. Critics maintain that the facilitator, rather than the person with autism, is the true source of the messages.

Other treatments for autism include supplements of vitamin B6 and magnesium; auditory training for individuals who are hypersensitive to certain frequencies of sound; and vision training to correct eyesight problems.




Contributed By:
Michael Woods

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