Is There Hope for My Child? The Best Way to Treat Autism

If you've had a child diagnosed with autism, or know someone who has, chances are that you are feeling a wide range of emotion. All parents want what's best for their children, and raising a child with special needs can make it hard to know what to do. 

As rates of autism diagnoses increase in the United States, medical professionals are working to better understand and care for the disorder. If you are the parent of an autistic child, there are many methods of treatment, but here are some guidelines on the best ways to treat and care for your child. 

Know What You Are Dealing With

Autism itself is a disorder with a wide range of levels. To find the adequate path of treatment for your child, you must first understand his or her level. This video by Dr. Robert L. Henderson explains some of the different levels of autism. As with other mental illnesses, people who have autism often display symptoms in varying degrees. Milder cases, such as Asperger Syndrome, affect the behavior differently than more extreme cases. However, catching the symptoms early can help increase the effectiveness of treatment. If you suspect that your child may have autism, watch this video to learn some of the classic symptoms.  

Pay Attention To Developmental Delays

One of the primary ways in which physicians can diagnose autism is through developmental delays. Not every child who is slower in developing language skills and social interaction skills necessarily has autism, but these markers are common signs of the disease. Talk to your child's primary care physician for testing if you notice such delays. According to a 2010 article by Dr. Paul S. Carbone, MD, and Megan Farley, PhD, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, published by the American Academy of Family Physicians, "Physicians should perform developmental surveillance at all well-child visits, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends administering an autism-specific screening tool at the 18- and 24-month visits." If you suspect that your child is displaying some early symptoms of autism, make sure to voice your concerns to your pediatrician, or get a referral for a specialist. 

Seek Out Behavioral Therapy

One of the most successful methods of treating autistic behaviors is through behavioral therapy. According to the Center For Autism, "Applied behavior analysis is the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree, and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behavior (Baer, Wolf & Risley, 1968; Sulzer-Azaroff & Mayer, 1991)." By placing your child under the care of people who work with autistic children daily, they will receive specialized care that is appropriate for their disorder. These professionals understand the behavior patterns that are prevalent in people at all ranges of the autism spectrum, and they know how to help treat these behaviors without aggravating your child. They can also help you determine ways in which to help your child manage his or her sensory behaviors at home. 

Be Open To Alternative Treatments

Like many mental illnesses, doctors and scientists are learning new methods of treating autism. Combining these alternative therapies with traditional behavioral therapy may help your child's progress. A recent WebPsychology article details one such method that involves different ways of stimulating the senses in autistic boys. "For the new study, parents of the children in the sensory enrichment group were given a kit that contained a broad range of materials aimed at stimulating their child's senses of smell, temperature, texture, sight and movement. Vials of essential oils scented of apple, lavender, sweet orange and vanilla, were among the items. Squares of different textured materials included smooth foam, hardwood flooring, sponges, felt and sandpaper." Befriend your child's doctor and/or case worker so you can discuss pros and cons of any treatment. 

Be Aware of Medication

While there aren't any specific medications on the market to treat the full spectrum of autistic disorders, your child may need medication to manage some of the symptoms such as digestive disturbances and irritability. Common medications prescribed for treating these symptoms include Risperidone and Aripiprazole, which are said to help reduce tantrums and other outbursts. However, both of these medications work by interacting with chemicals in the brain, and side effects may include fatigue, anxiety, sleep disorders, nausea, and vomiting, and risperidone has been proven to increase the likelihood of suicidal thoughts in children and young adults. Before choosing whether or not to treat your child with medication, talk to your doctor to determine the risks and the potential effectiveness of the drug. 

In the past decade, medical professionals have made great strides in the diagnosis and treatment of autism, and more research is being conducted every day. There are also a wide range of support groups available in which you can connect with other parents, so you don't have to go it alone. These days, diagnoses can occur more quickly, which helps in the treatment of autistic children. Learn all you can about your child's disorder, and utilize these treatments to ensure that your child will thrive.