How is ASD Treated?
While there's no proven cure yet for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), treating ASD early, using school-based programs, and getting proper medical care can greatly reduce ASD symptoms and increase your child's ability to grow and learn new skills.
Research has shown that intensive behavioral therapy during the toddler or preschool years can significantly improve cognitive and language skills in young children with ASD. There is no single best treatment for all children with ASD, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recently noted common features of effective early intervention programs. These include:
- Starting as soon as a child has been diagnosed with ASD
- Providing focused and challenging learning activities at the proper developmental level for the child for at least 25 hours per week and 12 months per year
- Having small classes to allow each child to have one-on-one time with the therapist or teacher and small group learning activities
- Having special training for parents and family
- Encouraging activities that include typically developing children, as long as such activities help meet a specific learning goal
- Measuring and recording each child's progress and adjusting the intervention program as needed
- Providing a high degree of structure, routine, and visual cues, such as posted activity schedules and clearly defined boundaries, to reduce distractions
- Guiding the child in adapting learned skills to new situations and settings and maintaining learned skills
- Using a curriculum that focuses on
- Language and communication
- Social skills, such as joint attention (looking at other people to draw attention to something interesting and share in experiencing it)
- Self-help and daily living skills, such as dressing and grooming
- Research-based methods to reduce challenging behaviors, such as aggression and tantrums
- Cognitive skills, such as pretend play or seeing someone else's point of view
- Typical school-readiness skills, such as letter recognition and counting.
Students with ASD may benefit from some type of social skills training program. While these programs need more research, they generally seek to increase and improve skills necessary for creating positive social interactions and avoiding negative responses. For example, Children's Friendship Training focuses on improving children's conversation and interaction skills and teaches them how to make friends, be a good sport, and respond appropriately to teasing.