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Treatment - Evaluating Approaches

Because no two children on the autism spectrum have the exact same symptoms and behavioral patterns, a treatment approach that works for one child may not be successful with another. This makes evaluating different approaches difficult and that much more essential. There is little comparative research between treatment approaches. Primarily this is because there are too many variables that have to be controlled. So, it's no wonder that parents might be confused about what to do.

The Autism Society of America has long promoted the empowerment of individual consumers (including people on the spectrum, parents and professionals) to critically examine a variety of available options and be forearmed with a set of parameters under which they can better determine associated threats and opportunities and, therefore, make informed decisions. Further, better educated consumers, would help control the embracing of unproven notions that may distract from effective courses of treatment for individuals with ASD.

In the article "Behavioral and Educational Treatment for Autistic Spectrum Disorders" (Autism Advocate, Volume 33, No. 6), Bryna Siegel, Ph.D., suggests thinking about "each symptom as an autism specific learning disability…" that tells "something about a barrier to understanding." Using this model, what the student can and cannot do well can be evaluated. "…take stock of which autistic learning disabilities are present," and "then select treatments that address that particular child's unique autism learning disability profile."

Understanding these learning differences is the first step in assessing whether a specific treatment approach may be helpful; understanding a child's strengths is equally important. For example, some children are good visual learners, while another child may need written, rather than oral, cues.

Finding Treatment Programs in Your Area

Once familiar with the treatments that are available and appropriate for individuals with ASD, parents begin to think about where they can receive these services. Treatments may be obtained through either the medical or educational community, depending on the nature of the treatment. There are also a variety of resources useful in finding qualified professionals or service providers in your area. There are several state agencies established to provide this type of information and support, including Protection and Advocacy agencies; Developmental Disabilities Councils; Vocational Rehabilitation Centers; Parent Training Centers; and Educational Resources. Local chapters of the Autism Society of America are run by parents of individuals on the autism spectrum and have been established to provide guidance, advice and referrals to programs and professionals in a specific geographic region.


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Jeff, Age 35