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Treatments and Interventions

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For many children, ASD symptoms improve with treatment and with age. Some children with autism grow up to lead normal or near-normal lives. Therapies and behavioural interventions are designed to remedy specific symptoms and can bring about substantial improvement.

In contrast to 20 years ago when many autistic individuals were institutionalized, there are now many flexible living arrangements. Usually, only the most severe individuals live in institutions. In adulthood, some people with autism live at home with their parents; some live in residential facilities; some live semi-independently (such as in a group home); and others live independently. Therapists use highly structured and intensive skill-oriented training sessions to help children develop social and language skills.

Doctors often prescribe an antidepressant medication tohandle symptoms of anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Anti-psychotic medications are used to treat severe behavioural problems. Seizures can be treated with one or more of the anticonvulsant drugs. Stimulant drugs, such as those used for children with attention deficit disorder are sometimes used effectively to help decrease impulsivity and hyperactivity.

The ideal treatment plan coordinates therapies and interventions that target the core symptoms of autism: impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and obsessive or repetitive routines and interests. Most professionals agree that the earlier the intervention, the better.

Over the years, families have tried various types of traditional and non-traditional treatments to reduce autistic behaviors and to increase appropriate behaviors. Although some individuals are given medications to improve general well-being, there is no primary drug which has been shown to be consistently effective in treating symptoms of autism. The most widely prescribed medication for autistic children is Ritalin, (a stimulant used to treat Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). However, there are no double-blind controlled studies to demonstrate its effectiveness for those with autism.

The two treatments which have received the most empirical support are Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA; behaviour modification) and the use of vitamin B6 with magnesium supplements or Di-methylglycine (DMG). Behaviour modification involves a variety of strategies, (e.g. positive reinforcement, time-out), to increase appropriate behaviors, such as communication and social behaviour, and to decrease inappropriate behaviors, such as self-stimulatory and self-injurious behaviour.

[Source: EUROPEAN COMMISSION, HEALTH & CONSUMER PROTECTION DIRECTORATE-GENERAL, Directorate C - Public Health and Risk Assessment, C2 - Health information]




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