Best therapies for autism
Treatment and Intervention Services for Autism Spectrum Disorder | NCBDDD
Current treatments for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) seek to reduce symptoms that interfere with daily functioning and quality of life.1 ASD affects each person differently, meaning that people with ASD have unique strengths and challenges and different treatment needs.1 Therefore, treatment plans usually involve multiple professionals and are catered toward the individual.
Treatments can be given in education, health, community, or home settings, or a combination of settings. It is important that providers communicate with each other and the person with ASD and their family to ensure that treatment goals and progress are meeting expectations.
As individuals with ASD exit from high school and grow into adulthood, additional services can help improve health and daily functioning, and facilitate social and community engagement. For some, supports to continue education, complete job training, find employment, and secure housing and transportation may be needed.
Types of Treatments
There are many types of treatments available. These treatments generally can be broken down into the following categories, although some treatments involve more than one approach:
- Complementary and Alternative
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Behavioral approaches focus on changing behaviors by understanding what happens before and after the behavior. Behavioral approaches have the most evidence for treating symptoms of ASD. They have become widely accepted among educators and healthcare professionals and are used in many schools and treatment clinics. A notable behavioral treatment for people with ASD is called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA encourages desired behaviors and discourages undesired behaviors to improve a variety of skills. Progress is tracked and measured.
Two ABA teaching styles are Discrete Trial Training (DTT) and Pivotal Response Training (PRT).
- DTT uses step-by-step instructions to teach a desired behavior or response. Lessons are broken down into their simplest parts, and desired answers and behaviors are rewarded. Undesired answers and behaviors are ignored.
- PRT takes place in a natural setting rather than clinic setting. The goal of PRT is to improve a few “pivotal skills” that will help the person learn many other skills. One example of a pivotal skill is to initiate communication with others.
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Developmental approaches focus on improving specific developmental skills, such as language skills or physical skills, or a broader range of interconnected developmental abilities. Developmental approaches are often combined with behavioral approaches.
The most common developmental therapy for people with ASD is Speech and Language Therapy. Speech and Language Therapy helps to improve the person’s understanding and use of speech and language. Some people with ASD communicate verbally. Others may communicate through the use of signs, gestures, pictures, or an electronic communication device.
Occupational Therapy teaches skills that help the person live as independently as possible. Skills may include dressing, eating, bathing, and relating to people. Occupational therapy can also include:
- Sensory Integration Therapy to help improve responses to sensory input that may be restrictive or overwhelming.
- Physical Therapy can help improve physical skills, such as fine movements of the fingers or larger movements of the trunk and body.
The Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) is a broad developmental approach based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis. It is used with children 12-48 months of age. Parents and therapists use play, social exchanges, and shared attention in natural settings to improve language, social, and learning skills.
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Educational treatments are given in a classroom setting. One type of educational approach is the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication-Handicapped Children (TEACCH) approach. TEACCH is based on the idea that people with autism thrive on consistency and visual learning. It provides teachers with ways to adjust the classroom structure and improve academic and other outcomes. For example, daily routines can be written or drawn and placed in clear sight. Boundaries can be set around learning stations. Verbal instructions can be complimented with visual instructions or physical demonstrations.
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Social-relational treatments focus on improving social skills and building emotional bonds. Some social-relational approaches involve parents or peer mentors.
- The Developmental, Individual Differences, Relationship-Based model (also called “Floor time”) encourages parents and therapists to follow the interests of the individual to expand opportunities for communication.
- The Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) model involves activities that increase motivation, interest, and abilities to participate in shared social interactions.
- Social Stories provide simple descriptions of what to expect in a social situation.
- Social Skills Groups provide opportunities for people with ASD to practice social skills in a structured environment.
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There are no medications that treat the core symptoms of ASD. Some medications treat co-occurring symptoms that can help people with ASD function better. For example, medication might help manage high energy levels, inability to focus, or self-harming behavior, such as head banging or hand biting. Medication can also help manage co-occurring psychological conditions, such as anxiety or depression, in addition to medical conditions such as seizures, sleep problems, or stomach or other gastrointestinal problems.
It is important to work with a doctor who has experience in treating people with ASD when considering the use of medication. This applies to both prescription medication and over-the-counter medication. Individuals, families, and doctors must work together to monitor progress and reactions to be sure that negative side effects of the medication do not outweigh the benefits.
Psychological approaches can help people with ASD cope with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT) is one psychological approach that focuses on learning the connections between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. During CBT, a therapist and the individual work together to identify goals and then change how the person thinks about a situation to change how they react to the situation.
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Complementary and Alternative Treatments
Some individuals and parents use treatments that do not fit into any of the other categories. These treatments are known as Complementary and Alternative treatments. Complementary and alternative treatments are often used to supplement more traditional approaches. They might include special diets, herbal supplements, chiropractic care, animal therapy, arts therapy, mindfulness, or relaxation therapies. Individuals and families should always talk to their doctor before starting a complementary and alternative treatment.
There may be other treatments available for individuals with ASD. Talk to a doctor or healthcare provider to learn more.
For more information you can visit:
American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Children with Disabilities: https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/145/1/e20193447external icon
Autism Society: https://www.autism-society.org/living-with-autism/treatment-options/external icon
Autism Speaks: https://www.autismspeaks.org/treatments-autismexternal icon
Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee: https://iacc. hhs.gov/publications/publications-analysis/2012/treatments.shtmlexternal icon
National Institute on Child Health and Human Development: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/autism/conditioninfo/treatmentsexternal icon
- Hyman, S.L., Levy, S.E., Myers, S.M., & AAP Council on Children with Disabilities, Section on developmental and behavioral pediatrics. (2020). Identification, evaluation, and management of children with autism spectrum disorder. Pediatrics, 145(1), e20193447.
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Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors
Medically Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on September 28, 2021
A number of therapies can help people with autism improve their abilities and reduce their symptoms. Starting therapy early -- during preschool or before -- improves the chances for your child’s success, but it’s never too late for treatment.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends you start to research therapies as soon as you suspect your child has autism, rather than waiting for a formal diagnosis. It can take a lot of time, tests, and follow-ups with specialists to get a formal diagnosis.
What works varies from person to person. Get to know some of the most popular -- and proven -- therapies.
Children with autism often play differently than other kids do. They’ll likely focus on parts of a toy (like wheels) rather than the whole toy. They “pretend play” like other kids do. And they may not want to play with others.
But to many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), playing is the way they express themselves -- their toys and their actions may become their words. Play can help children with ASD learn and connect with other people, both children and adults, in a way they understand.
Play therapy can improve their social and emotional skills, help them think in different ways, add to their language or communication skills, and expand the ways they play with toys and relate to other people.
Children with ASD can benefit from any one of several kinds of play therapy:
Floortime is a common play therapy. You, a teacher, or a therapist gets down on the floor to play with your child on their terms. You join in by playing the same way that your child is playing, then you add something to the game.
It might be a second toy or a few words to introduce language to the game. The goal is to create play that goes back and forth between you and your child to encourage more communication and add something new to their play. It should help them grow emotionally and learn how to better focus their thinking.
Your child may meet with a therapist for up to 25 hours per week for Floortime, or you and your child can do this at home. Studies show that most children who have Floortime therapy for 25 hours a week for 2 years or longer improve in all areas of development.
Integrated play groups (IPGs) combine children both with and without autism spectrum disorder so those with ASD can follow their peers’ lead and learn how to play. Groups have three to five children, with just a few children with ASD in each group.
Adult leaders set the tone for play, but the children eventually take over. If your child participates in IPGs, they might pretend play more over time, and they’ll have many chances to improve their social skills while they spend time with other kids.
IPGs can meet for up to 3 hours a week. Research shows that children with ASD who had two 30-minute IPG sessions a week for 4 months improved their quality of play, used their toys in a more typical way, and showed improved social interaction with their peers.
Joint attention symbolic play engagement and regulation (JASPER) can help your child better focus on a toy and a person at the same time. Improving joint attention skills can help them play with other children. The JASPER program can also help your child engage in more pretend play, broaden the way they play with toys, speak more with others, and improve other social skills.
Children who have JASPER therapy often meet one-on-one with a therapist. JASPER is sometimes offered in preschool settings. Children may have this type of therapy for up to 25 hours per week.
You may notice that your child gains new skills within just a few weeks. They might be talking more while they play. Or they could be “driving” cars down a ramp instead of just spinning the wheels. This type of therapy could go on for months or years, depending on their needs.
How can you find play therapy?
You can ask your doctor to refer you to local therapists who engage in play therapy. You can also search online at the Association for Play Therapy’s play therapist directory.
Occupational therapy helps with activities of daily living and the use of everyday objects, like learning to button a shirt or hold a fork the right way. But it can involve anything related to school, work, or play. The focus depends on the child’s needs and goals.
What does an occupational therapist do?
Occupational therapists work as part of a team that includes parents, teachers, and other professionals. They help set specific goals for the person with autism. These goals often involve social interaction, behavior, and classroom performance.
Occupational therapists can help in two main ways: evaluation and therapy.
The therapist watches children to see if they can do tasks they are expected to do at their ages -- getting dressed or playing a game, for example. Sometimes, the therapist will have the child recorded during the day to see how the child interacts with people and things around them. That helps the therapist determine the kind of care the child needs. The therapist might look closely at:
- Attention span and stamina
- Transition to new activities
- Play skills
- Need for personal space
- Responses to touch or other kinds of stimuli
- Motor skills like posture, balance, or manipulation of small objects
- Aggression or other types of behaviors
- Interactions between the child and caregivers
Once an occupational therapist has gathered information, they can develop a program for your child. There is no single ideal treatment program. But early, structured, individualized care has been shown to work best.
Occupational therapy may combine a variety of ideas, including:
- Physical activities, like stringing beads or doing puzzles, to help a child develop coordination and body awareness
- Play activities to help with interaction and communication
- Developmental activities, like brushing teeth and combing hair
- Adaptive strategies, including going through transitions
How does occupational therapy benefit people with ASD?
The overall goal of occupational therapy is to help people with autism improve their quality of life at home and in school. The therapist helps introduce, keep up, and improve skills so people with autism can be as independent as possible.
Occupational therapy may help with:
- Daily living skills such as toilet training, dressing, brushing teeth, and other grooming skills
- Fine motor skills required for holding things in their hands while writing or cutting with scissors
- Gross motor skills used for walking, climbing stairs, or riding a bike
- Sitting, posture, or perceptual skills, like telling the differences between colors, shapes, and sizes
- Awareness of their body and its relation to others
- Visual skills for reading and writing
- Play, self-help, problem-solving, communication, and social skills
By working on these skills during occupational therapy, a child with autism may be able to:
- Develop relationships with children and adults
- Learn how to focus on tasks
- Learn how to delay gratification
- Express feelings in more appropriate ways
- Play with other children
- Learn how to self-regulate
- How can someone get OT services for autism spectrum disorder?
Occupational therapy services are available privately, through a statewide early childhood intervention program, or at school. Public law requires schools to provide certain types of occupational therapy to people who need it. Private insurance also usually covers OT. Medicaid may cover occupational therapy for autism, even for families with higher incomes. School-based OT usually works to complement educational goals, like improving handwriting, so the child can keep up by taking notes. Private therapy will be more medically intensive.
People with ASD may have major problems with both speech and nonverbal communication. They may also find it very hard to interact socially. For these reasons, speech therapy is a central part of treatment for autism. It helps children with speaking, as well as communicating and interacting with others. It can involve nonverbal skills, like making eye contact, taking turns in a conversation, and using and understanding gestures. It might also teach kids to express themselves using picture symbols, sign language, or computers.
What are the common speech and communication issues with autism?
About 1 in 3 people with autism have trouble producing speech sounds to effectively communicate with others.
A person with autism may:
- Not talk at all
- Utter grunts, cries, shrieks, or throaty, harsh sounds
- Hum or talk in a musical way
- Babble with word-like sounds
- Use foreign-sounding "words" or robotic-like speech
- Parrot or often repeat what another person says (called echolalia)
- Use the right phrases and sentences, but with an unexpressive tone of voice
A person with autism may also have communication challenges like:
- Trouble with conversational skills, including eye contact and gestures
- Trouble understanding the meaning of words outside the context where they were learned
- Memorization of things heard without knowing what's been said
- Use of echolalia -- the repeating of another person's words as they are being said -- as the main way to communicate
- Little understanding of the meaning of words or symbols
- Lack of creative language
A child with autism has to do more than learn how to speak. The child also must learn how to use language to communicate. That means knowing how to have a conversation. It also includes understanding both verbal and nonverbal cues from other people -- like facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language.
What role does speech therapy play in the treatment of autism?
Speech-language pathologists are therapists who specialize in treating language problems and speech disorders. They are a key part of the autism treatment team. With early screening and detection, speech therapists often lead the way in helping with the diagnosis of autism and making referrals to other specialists.
Once autism is diagnosed, speech therapists figure out the best ways to improve communication. The speech-language pathologist works closely with the family, school, and other professionals. If someone with autism is nonverbal or has major trouble with speech, the speech therapist may introduce alternatives to speech, including:
- Electronic "talkers"
- Signing or typing
- Using pictures instead of words to help a child learn to communicate
- Improving articulation of speech by massaging or exercising lips or facial muscles
- Having people sing songs that match the rhythm, emphasis, and flow of sentences
Some of these methods are supported more by research than others. Be sure to discuss them thoroughly with the speech-language pathologist and your child's pediatrician.
How does speech therapy benefit people with ASD?
Speech therapy can improve overall communication. This makes it possible for people with autism to improve their ability to form relationships and function in day-to-day life.
Specific goals of speech therapy include helping the individual with autism:
- Articulate words well
- Communicate both verbally and nonverbally
- Understand verbal and nonverbal communication, and what other people mean in different settings
- Start communication without prompting from others
- Know the appropriate time and place to communicate something; for example, when to say "good morning"
- Grow conversation skills
- Exchange ideas
- Communicate in ways to develop relationships
- Enjoy communicating, playing, and interacting with other
- Learn self-control
When is the best time to start speech therapy for autism?
The earlier speech therapy is started, the better. Autism spectrum disorder is usually clear before age 3. Language delays can be noticed as early as 18 months of age. In some cases, autism can be identified as early 10 to 12 months of age. It is very important to start speech therapy as early as possible, when it can have the biggest effect.
With early identification and treatment, two out of three preschoolers with autism improve communication skills and their grasp of spoken language. Research shows those who improve the most are often those who receive the most speech therapy.
To find a speech-language pathologist, go to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's web site at www.asha.org. You can ask your pediatrician for other suggestions.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
This type of therapy uses rewards to reinforce positive behaviors and teach new skills. Parents and other caregivers are trained so they can give the autistic child moment-by-moment feedback.
Treatment goals are based on the individual. They might include communication, social skills, personal care, and school work. Studies show children who receive early, intensive ABA can make big, lasting gains.
There are different types of ABA. They include:
- Discrete trial training (DTT). This breaks a desired behavior into the simplest steps.
- Early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI). This form of ABA is designed for young children, usually under age five.
- Pivotal response treatment (PRT). The focus here is on important areas of a child’s development, like self-management and taking charge in social situations.
- Verbal behavior intervention (VBI). Improving a child’s verbal skills is the goal.
Therapeutic Horseback Riding
Doctors also call this “hippotherapy.” Here, a child rides a horse under the guidance of a therapist. Riding is a form of physical therapy because the rider needs to react and adjust to the movements of the animal. Research shows it helps children from ages 5 to 16 improve their social and speaking skills. It can also help them to be less irritable and hyperactive.
Autism: how is it treated and what helps?
In recent years, the topic of autism has been very actively studied by science, and also causes a lot of controversy and controversy in the circles of parents of autistic children. Many resort to the so-called "traditional", "folk" medicine, and also try to help their children with the help of methods that have appeared relatively recently.
Evidence-based practice, which is applied worldwide, should guide all methods used to treat autism symptoms, including behavioral, educational, biomedical and alternative approaches. But all these interventions must be brought under the same standards of evidence in order for the help to be effective and timely.
In this article, I tried to consider the most commonly used methods of alternative treatment, as well as to present the results of their research from the standpoint of evidence-based medicine and prevalence.
Alternative therapies are divided into several categories: alternative medical teachings (for example, homeopathy), biological therapy, energy medicine, body-oriented medicine, as well as other practices (yoga, reiki, etc.).
The prevalence of alternative medicine in the general population is quite difficult to determine due to the large number of different interventions and differences between the studied populations.
Adult use ranges from 1.8% to 62%. Child population data is not available. However, children with developmental disorders traditionally turn to alternative medicine more often than other patients. Here are the data on the diagnoses: ADHD 12-64%, cerebral palsy 56%, Down's SM 87%, Autism 30-90%.
Many families of children with autism decide to use alternative methods based on their belief that they are safe, have minimal side effects, and are “natural.” Some families reported that their choice of therapy was based on a desire to control the course of treatment based on recommendations from the Internet, friends and other families with autistic children, and promises of a cure.
Another significant factor in the decision may be promises to get rid of other serious symptoms, such as digestive problems. Prerequisites are also created by family experience in the use of alternative medicine (for example, by parents), a high level of education, and a message about the seriousness of the diagnosis.
In this article, I will try to cover several categories of alternative interventions. I will not discuss Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, naturopathy and homeopathy. The explanations for these worldviews are very different between their followers and those who adhere to evidence-based medicine.
There is some data in the peer-reviewed scientific literature to comment on their role in the treatment of children with autism, but they have an extremely low level of evidence. So,
The most common therapies in autistic people are biological therapies. Diets, vitamins, and unusual use of drugs such as secretin, vancomycin, and antifungals.
Gluten-free and casein-free diets are considered the most popular, followed by about a third of autistic people. The original hypothesis of "gut leaks" has not been confirmed (Cass et al. 2008), but many families subjectively report an improvement in children's condition on the background of the diet.
It is likely that some of the children had associated pediatric problems: lactase deficiency, milk protein allergy, stool problems. And on the background of the diet, these problems could subside, thereby possibly causing an improvement in behavior.
The effect of the GBBA diet has been studied in 4 small studies. The studies included a small number of children (up to 35), with symptoms of autistic disorder, from 2 to 16 years old. These studies have shown some improvements in the condition of children, in particular, improvement in speech. But methodological problems (small sample, lack of blind control, etc.) do not allow us to consider the results reliable.
It is important to note that these diets are often poor in calcium and vitamin D, which also requires attention from parents and specialists.
Vitamins and other dietary supplements
Almost half of the families of children with autism give their children vitamins and supplements. However, there are very few well-designed studies on this method. Vitamins and supplements are advertised as improving specific symptoms such as digestive and sleep problems. Public opinion, focus on everything "natural", a huge number of doctors practicing alternative medicine - all this leads to the fact that vitamins and dietary supplements are constantly recommended.
Nearly half of pediatricians encourage their autistic patients to take multivitamins, 25% omega-3s or melatonin, 19% probiotics. (Golnik and Ireland 2009). Of all the studies conducted on vitamins and dietary supplements, a significant effect was obtained only for melatonin: improved sleep, reduced number of awakenings, increased sleep duration.
The rest of the supplements did not show significant effects, or the study designs had serious methodological problems.
Treatment aimed at improving immunity
The potential role of "immune breakdowns" during brain development that can lead to the development of autism has given rise to two therapies designed to "boost" immune function. Children with autism did not have clinically significant immune dysfunctions and allergies compared to normal children.
However, a decrease in immunoglobulins and some other parameters is reported in tests that were given to find out the causes of behavioral disorders. However, immunoglobulin treatment has no effect on autism.
The second extremely popular and dangerous intervention of this kind is chelation. Because of the thimerosal scandal (1998), many families believe that the mercury-containing preservatives used in modern vaccines cause autism. Because of this, chelation has become part of the alternative treatment.
However, blood mercury levels in children with autism are not elevated. But adherents of this theory argue that the excretion of mercury is disturbed, and thereby causes damage to the brain substance. The chelation efficacy study was terminated due to safety issues with the method used for the subjects (Mitka 2008)
Typically, chelating agents bind to heavy metals and excrete them in the urine or stool. In medical practice, they are used to treat acute poisoning with heavy metals, such as lead. If exposure to toxic doses of mercury is suspected, a blood test is used to confirm.
Chelationists, on the other hand, measure mercury levels in the hair, arguing that mercury accumulates there, and in the urine, which is associated with its excretion (Ng et al. 2007). Evidence for this theory has not yet been received.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
Used to increase oxygen delivery to the brain under pressure in a special chamber. Hypotheses have also been put forward about the response to oxygen stress in the form of improved brain nutrition.
Two randomized clinical trials were conducted in an attempt to find evidence for these interventions, but came to opposite conclusions.
A 2009 study of 62 children with ASD reported improved behavior and reduced autistic symptoms with hyperbaric oxygen treatment compared with controls.
However, the difference in results between groups is within the statistical error. The second study, also in 2009, included 34 children and showed no significant difference between the control group and the hyperbaric oxygen group.
It is impossible not to mention the risks of the method: ear pain from high atmospheric pressure, anxiety and panic in a confined space for many children with autism can be unbearable.
Also, the cost of this intervention is quite high.
Parents of children with autism often resort to chiropractic and craniosacral therapy.
However, studies with evidence of the effectiveness of this method for the treatment of children with ASD have not been presented. Children with autism often have sensory disturbances in the form of a craving for touch or vice versa, their intolerance.
Sensory integration for these children may be helpful as part of an overall intervention plan.
Conventional massage is not recognized as a proven treatment for autistic children, but many parents report that massage allows them to better understand and bond with their children.
The main principle of the method is sensory-sound stimulation. The impact is through headphones. The sound signal is transmitted to the patient in two ways: bone conduction (vibration of the upper region of the skull) and air conduction (sound waves enter through the outer ear).
Adherents of the method claim that it can help smooth out the symptoms of autism, and even spur the development of speech. Some studies do show improvements, but control studies do not.
There may be subgroups of autistic children with hyperacusis who may indeed benefit from this intervention. It is impossible not to note the very high cost of this method for parents.
Transcranial micropolarization (TCMP), or brain micropolarization, is a treatment method, the essence of which is the impact on individual brain structures with a very weak direct electric current. It was developed back in the 70s of the last century by scientists from the Leningrad Institute of Experimental Medicine, and today it is used to treat both children and adults in a number of medical institutions
Russia and post-Soviet countries.
The largest scientific electronic medical database pubmed contains several articles written by employees of the Institute of the Brain (St. Petersburg), reporting on the use of this method for the treatment of children with mental problems: ASD, ADHD, mental retardation. However, the design of studies, in particular, small sample size, lack of placebo control, randomization, and other methodological problems do not allow us to speak about the reliability of these studies.
The use of the transcranial micropolarization method in countries with predominantly evidence-based medicine (USA and Western European countries) is also not reported. The cost of this intervention, however, is consistently high.
Such as electrosleep, paraffin therapy, ozocerite and others are also used only in the post-Soviet space and do not have an evidence base for the treatment of children with ASD and other developmental problems. Information about their safety is also not enough.
"Drugs that improve brain function", or nootropics, gained the greatest popularity in Russia and neighboring countries in the 80s of the last century. At preclinical stages, their ability to activate energy metabolism in neurons, enhance the synthesis of protein compounds, increase the rate of impulse transmission in the central nervous system, and strengthen cell membranes was shown.
But numerous clinical trials have not found confirmation of these properties when using nootropics in humans orally and parenterally. Quite large studies of nootropics have been conducted, with good design and selection, for various pathologies. Not a single study has shown their sufficient efficacy and safety.
In particular, a meta-analysis on the use of piracetam in patients with post-stroke aphasia (Zhang et al. 2016) revealed its ability to improve linguistic functions in patients for a very short time, with their subsequent decrease to the initial pre-treatment level. Thus, the use of nootropics for the treatment of mental pathology is not proven and justified.
In Europe and North America, nootropics, also called "smart drugs", are included in the category of dietary supplements and do not undergo clinical trials. "Smart drugs" are mainly used by young people during periods of heavy mental stress (such as a session) to "cheer up", feel energized and speed up thought processes. There are no such drugs in foreign treatment protocols.
However, in foreign literature there are indications of possible dangerous consequences of long-term use of nootropics: changes in biochemical processes in the brain, cognitive decline, an exciting effect on the central nervous system, insufficient quality control of drugs, problems with sleep, insufficient knowledge of drug interactions.
Considering all these factors, it is hardly possible to call nootropic therapy necessary and safe for children with autism spectrum disorders.
A "magic pill" for autism has not yet been invented.
Psychological and pedagogical interventions based on applied behavioral analysis - ABA therapy and its variations are recognized as the most effective treatment (namely, treatment!)
Now it is gaining confident and well-deserved popularity in our country, and will continue to develop.
It is impossible not to mention neuroleptics, antidepressants and antiepileptic drugs, which are prescribed to autists in very large quantities. This problem is typical not only for Russia, but also for Europe and the USA. The proportion of children with autism who are prescribed antipsychotics is consistently high.
But, nevertheless, parents should know: antipsychotics do not cure autism. They are able to cope with severe symptoms, such as, for example, aggression that is not controlled by behavioral methods or auto-aggression.
Also, the prescription of medications may be necessary to relieve comorbid disorders with autism (epilepsy, ADHD). At the same time, the condition of a child with autism will improve due to the relief of the symptoms of these diseases.
Of course, the choice of therapy for a child lies entirely with the parents.
The purpose of this article is to provide information about those techniques that can be useless at best, and dangerous for a child at worst.
And finally, it is impossible not to note the main thing. The most valuable resource for parents of autistic children is time. And the less it is spent on ineffective interventions, the better and better it will be possible to help the child.
1. B. Reichow, P. Doehring, D.v. Cicchetti, F. R. Volkmar. Evidence-based practices and treatments for children with autism, Springer, 2011
2.Potential Dangers Of Nootropics: What To Consider Before Using Smart Drugs
"Mental health diary"
3. Piracetam for Aphasia in Post-stroke Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. CNS drugs 2016, july (30)
4. Transcranial micropolarization in the complex therapy of early child autism
Zh Nevrol Psikhiatr Im S S Korsakova 2007 107(10)
Meshkova Elizaveta Sergeevna
psychiatrist , psychotherapist
Treatment of autism in specialized clinics abroad. BookingHeallth
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- What is autism?
- Is it possible to cure autism in a child?
- Autism diagnostics
- Autism treatment methods
- Where to treat autism?
- Organization of treatment with Booking Health
What is autism?
Autism is a mental disorder diagnosed in 2% of children. This is a relatively rare pathology in the general classification of autism spectrum disorders. The causes of the disease are unknown, there is no single mechanism for its development. Autism is manifested by antisocial behavior, lack of communication skills, a tendency to ritualistic behavior and systematization. An autistic child does not make contact with either adults or peers. Such children usually do not smile, do not make eye contact, do not play with other children. They are very selective in food.
Can a child's autism be cured?
Yes, autism is treatable. Although people with autism cannot completely get rid of their features. The treatment of autism in adults is a practically unexplored field of medicine. Sometimes the symptoms improve with age, and sometimes they worsen. It all depends on whether any therapy was used in childhood. It is often difficult for autistic people to lead a social life in adulthood.
In order to diagnose autism in a child, the following signs are evaluated:
- Behavior (atypical expression of emotions, facial expressions)
- Pain threshold too low or too high
- Anxiety and fear, sleep and speech disorders
- Ignoring or vice versa - excessive reaction to sounds and other external stimuli
- Inhibition of reaction, lack of emotions
- Gastrointestinal disorders (due to limited food preferences)
- Convulsive syndrome
In addition, a number of instrumental and laboratory tests are carried out - MRI, EEG, genetic test and others. New diagnostic methods include the use of scales, questionnaires adapted to the age of the child, and observation methods. For example, this is the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS), the scale for determining the severity of autism in children, the Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (CHAT) and others.
Autism treatment methods
One of the most important aspects of autism treatment abroad is a systematic approach. Among the modern methods of treating autism in children used in foreign centers, we can distinguish:
- Drug therapy . Treatment of autism with pharmaceutical drugs is symptomatic. Antipsychotics and psychostimulants are prescribed according to individual, carefully selected schemes. By stopping some symptoms, they can aggravate others. Therefore, it is very important to contact a qualified specialist whose opinion you trust.
- Psychotherapy . In order to correct autism in foreign clinics, doctors use psychotherapeutic techniques. Any psychotherapy, and even more so for children, begins with the establishment of contact between the patient and the doctor. Therefore, it should be understood that children with special needs should receive the help of a psychotherapist in their native language. Otherwise, there will be no effect from therapy. Therefore, when choosing a clinic abroad, it is necessary to clarify in advance the availability of Russian-speaking specialists. In modern centers abroad, autism therapy includes an element of the game. This approach allows the doctor both to analyze the child's condition and facilitates the establishment of trusting relationships.
- Special education . Since it is difficult for autistic children to establish contacts and communicate with other people, foreign specialists practice special social skills training programs. They allow you to effectively correct the behavioral aspects of the disease, developing in children the ability to establish contacts.
- Snoezelen therapy . This method allows using external stimuli to influence the child's senses. The method consists in placing the child in a special room equipped with luminous objects, convex drawings, garlands. The room smells of flowers, you can hear music, birdsong, water murmur. There are many things that affect tactile sensations - water, sand, pile, small objects. Snoezelen therapy is very effective, because it allows you to get the attention of a closed child, to reach out to his inner world.
- Pet therapy . This is a therapy based on the communication of a child with animals. Some clinics use cats, dogs, hamsters and rabbits for this. Other foreign centers have dolphinariums or stables. Communication with dolphins and hippotherapy (communication with horses) are the most effective types of pet therapy. They allow you to evoke healthy emotions in a child, teach him to get in touch with a living being.
- Diet . Nutrition plays a special role in the treatment of autism. This is due to the fact that more than 60% of children with autism spectrum disorder are very selective in food. This behavior of the child leads to secondary diseases - disorders of the gastrointestinal tract. That is why foreign centers take a very responsible approach to the nutrition of young patients. Professional nutritionists develop an individual menu for each child, taking into account his preferences and medical indications.
- Stem cells . The use of cellular technologies in the treatment of autism has become popular in recent years. Researchers of this method believe that the regenerative potential that stem cells carry can have a positive impact on the health of an autistic child. However, while official medicine does not have confirmed data in this regard.
- Alternative treatments for autism . The use of alternative medicine and alternative medicine methods for the treatment of autistic children is possible only with the permission of the attending physician as an adjunct to the main therapy. Non-traditional treatment of autism can by no means replace a full-fledged therapy. Many of the alternative approaches popular on the Internet simply endanger the life of the child.
Choose a specialized clinic and treatment
Where to treat autism?
Most research in the field of autism treatment is carried out in Israel. It is there that the best clinics are located, where autism is treated, most of the innovative methods are being developed. There are also autism clinics in Germany and other European countries. You can get stem cell treatment for autism in clinics in Germany (from the age of 14) and Ukraine (at any age).
It is up to you to choose where it is better to treat autism, while remembering the systematic approach and the availability of specialists who speak your language. It is better to start rehabilitation at an early age, immediately after diagnosis. So the child will be able to adapt in society and avoid disability.
In German clinics, doctors combine international treatment protocols with their own developments. The basis of treatment is behavioral therapy or the method of applied behavior analysis ABA (Applied behavior analysis), which is supplemented by the methods listed above. German experts determine exactly which of the additional types of treatment will bring the greatest benefit to the child - sometimes it is worth undergoing stem cell treatment, and sometimes it is enough to help parents adjust their diet.
In German autism treatment centres, parents can usually live with their child and actively participate in the therapeutic process. After discharge from the clinic, the child feels better, and the parents feel more confident. If necessary, relatives of a small patient can always contact the clinic to get additional recommendations or plan the next course of treatment.
Organization of treatment with Booking Health
In order to send your child for autism treatment abroad, you can contact our managers. They can help you find the right autism treatment center and specialist for your child.
Our company will also take care of:
- Issuance of an invitation for treatment and medical visa
- Booking tickets and hotel (for outpatient treatment), airport transfer
- Insurance of your medical program
- Independent external control of treatment by Booking Health doctors
- Interpreter services at a clinic abroad
- Translation of your medical records
- Maintaining contact with your doctor and clinic after returning to your home country
- Organization of additional examination and treatment, if necessary
When you arrive at a clinic abroad, a personal medical consultant will always be in touch with you. You can contact him for medical and domestic issues. With Booking Health you will feel the attention and care of yourself.
Contact Booking Health
Choose treatment abroad and you will definitely get an excellent result!
The article was edited by experts in the field of medicine, medical specialists Dr.