Treatment and Intervention Services for Autism Spectrum Disorder
Currently, no treatment has been shown to cure ASD, but several interventions have been developed and studied for use with young children. These interventions may reduce symptoms, improve cognitive ability and daily living skills, and maximize the ability of the child to function and participate in the community.
Behavioral intervention strategies have focused on social communication skill development—particularly at young ages when the child would naturally be gaining these skills—and reduction of restricted interests and repetitive and challenging behaviors. For some children, occupational and speech therapy may be helpful, as could social skills training and medication in older children. The best treatment or intervention can vary depending on an individual’s age, strengths, challenges, and differences
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people.
Signs and Symptoms
People with ASD often have problems with social, emotional, and communication skills. They might repeat certain behaviors and might not want change in their daily activities.
Many people with ASD also have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things. Signs of ASD begin during early childhood and typically last throughout a person’s life.
Children or adults with ASD might:
- Not point at objects to show interest (for example, not point at an airplane flying over)
- Not look at objects when another person points at them
- Have trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all
- Avoid eye contact and want to be alone
- Have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
- Prefer not to be held or cuddled, or might cuddle only when they want to
- Appear to be unaware when people talk to them, but respond to other sounds
- Be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play, or relate to them
- Repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat words or phrases in place of normal language
- Have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions
- Not play “pretend” games (for example, not pretend to “feed” a doll)
- Repeat actions over and over again
- Have trouble adapting when a routine changes
- Have unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound
- Lose skills they once had (for example, stop saying words they were using)
Causes and Risk Factors
We do not know all of the causes of ASD. However, we have learned that there are likely many causes for multiple types of ASD. There may be many different factors that make a child more likely to have an ASD, including environmental, biologic and genetic factors.
- Most scientists agree that genes are one of the risk factors that can make a person more likely to develop ASD.
- Children who have a sibling with ASD are at a higher risk of also having ASD.
- Individuals with certain genetic or chromosomal conditions, such as fragile X syndrome or tuberous sclerosis, can have a greater chance of having ASD.
- When taken during pregnancy, the prescription drugs valproic acid and thalidomide have been linked with a higher risk of ASD.
- There is some evidence that the critical period for developing ASD occurs before, during, and immediately after birth.
- Children born to older parents are at greater risk for having ASD.
There is currently no cure for ASD. However, research shows that early intervention treatment services can improve a child’s development.2, 3 Early intervention services help children from birth to 3 years old (36 months) learn important skills. Services can include therapy to help the child talk, walk, and interact with others. Therefore, it is important to talk to your child’s doctor as soon as possible if you think your child has ASD or other developmental problem.