Autism Treatment

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About Autism


Review various types of autism treatment, including medications, behavior modification, Lovaas technique, dietary modifications, NAET, the Denver Model, and several complementary therapies.

The term Autism was first used by Leo Kanner in 1943, when he wrote a paper entitled “Autistic Disturbance of Affective Contact”. Kanner observed that children with autism tend to want to be alone, have difficulties communicating and interacting with others, and have unusual interests. Prior to this article being written, many of these children tended to be classified as schizophrenic.

Autism is a serious neurological disorder where individuals often do not make eye contact, are defensive when touched, they tend toward being non-verbal, though they can be observant and intelligent. There are many theories as to the cause of autism. Some believe it’s genetic, others view the environment as the cause, others believe that vaccinations cause autism, and some even believe that allergies underlie the disorder. Although researchers have yet to find the true cause of autism, it is understood that what is occurring is a gap in the neuropathways of the brain. The disorder can range from very mild to quite severe and there are various methods of autism treatment depending on severity and symptoms that present. Some of these treatments are covered next, starting with “medication.”



Autism is associated with a variety of behaviors which include hyperactivity, aggression, agitation, and impaired motor skills. To treat some of these symptoms, antipsychotic medications may be prescribed. There are stronger drugs that block dopamine receptors which are effective in minimizing the affects of these symptoms (e.g. chlorpromazine, fluphenazine, haloperidol and thioridazine). Unfortunately, these drugs are also known for their adverse side effects which cause a negative effect on motor control. Geodon, risperdone, and zyprexa are second generation drugs that are now beginning to be prescribed for autism treatment, but information on results is limited as they are very new. The side effects have so far shown to be less intense, which is a very positive sign.


Antidepressants may also be prescribed to individuals with autism, although caution must be taken and individuals on these drugs should be monitored for suicidal tendencies. This is especially important when beginning the treatment or when dosages are changed. One class of antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are used to manage various symptoms, such as depression and obsessive compulsive tendencies, by preventing serotonin from being prematurely removed from the brain. Types of SSRIs available include: celexa, lexapro, luvox, paxil, prozac, and zoloft.


Some individuals suffering from autism will experience seizures. In these cases, physicians may prescribe anticonvulsants (e.g. depakote, lamictal, tegretol or topamax) to treat the symptoms. With anticonvulsants, blood tests should be monitored to ensure that the lowest dose possible is used. Although medication may help ease or minimize the occurrence of seizures, those seizures are not always eliminated.


One of the symptoms a child with autism may experience is yeast infections. Due to the high level of antibiotics these individuals may be required to take, the bad bacteria is killed off along with the good bacteria, which may allow yeast to grow. To treat the yeast infections, natural herbal remedies can be chosen or chemical pharmaceutical options. Several anti-fungal herbals are available including barberry, olive leaf extract, garlic, goldenseal, Oregon grape root, oregano oil, peppermint oil and rosemary. These remedies are effective but may take longer to kill the yeast than medication. In severe cases, it may be preferable to choose anti-fungal pharmaceuticals for quicker relief and then slowly ease up on the pharmaceuticals, while introducing the natural herbal remedies.

Autism Treatment - behavior oriented

Behavior Modification

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is used as an autism treatment in young children to teach them desired skills. This is done by breaking down tasks into small steps that are easier for a child to learn. Small steps are progressively built upon by adding new tasks as the previous ones are successfully completed. This is accomplished through prompting, guiding, shaping and rewarding the children.

Lovaas Technique

This method of autism treatment was developed by Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas and is aimed at preschool children. It is a form of discrete trial teaching (DTT) which is a systematic process that consists of the instructor presenting or requesting a specific behavior (trial), the child’s response to the request, a reward for an appropriate response, a short pause, and then the next trial. Each trial is distinct so that the child can not be confused by what is being requested by his “teacher.” This method is intensive and requires many hours a day to teach the child tasks one by one.

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The GFCF Diet

This category of autism treatment explores food allergies as a possible underlying cause of autism. The gastrointestinal tract is one of the body’s physical barriers protecting and defending it from bacteria. Those with autism are known to have GI difficulties in which the breakdown of gluten- and casein-generated peptides is impaired. This autism treatment involves adopting a gluten free, casein free diet (GFCF).

Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat and other grains such as oats, rye, barley kamut, and spelt. Gluten is also found in starches such as semolina, couscous and malt. Casein is a protein as well and it is found in milk and milk products such as cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream and cottage cheese. Casein is also added to nonmilk products such as soy in the form of caseinate.

Before starting an autistic child on the GFCF autism treatment, documenting any gastrointestinal signs and symptoms the child is experiencing is recommended. Symptoms to be monitored include chronic diarrhea or constipation, bloating, abdominal pain, food aversions, red ears, foul smelling breath, recurrent infections, etc. Once the signs and symptoms have been recorded, you can begin treatment, for instance, by removing dairy products and monitoring your child’s reactions and symptoms. Within the week, you can begin removing gluten from the diet. As you monitor the symptoms your child displays, you may end up removing additional foods above and beyond the gluten and casein containing foods as it becomes clearer what foods might be causing negative reactions. One note that should be highlighted is that by removing these foods from a child’s diet, the child can experience withdrawal. These withdrawal symptoms should only last a short time, but they can be extremely unpleasant so parents should be aware.

On the GFCF diet, many foods are removed along with their corresponding nutrients, so it is also important to replenish the probiotics, enzymes, vitamins, minerals and omega fatty acids to ensure that the child’s diet is complete. Some suggestions that may be made by a physician are to administer a multivitamin that is rich in B complex, omega fatty acids, probiotics from non-dairy products, vitamin D supplements, digestive enzymes, and even melatonin if there are sleep related issues.

Allergy Treatment

Dr. Devi S. Nambudripad has written a book entitled “Say Goodbye to Allergy Related Autism” in which she describes her NAET method of autism treatment for treating allergy-related autism. Dr. Nambudripad claims that most of the cases of autism that she has encountered can be traced back to allergies. These allergies, Nambudripad claims, formed at a very early age and have negatively impacted the growth and development of autistic children’s brains and therefore have caused autism. Through non-invasive, energy related treatments described in her book, she states that she is able to relieve not only the symptoms of these allergies but provide an effective autism treatment as well.

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Developmental Therapies

The Denver Model

The Denver Model is a treatment for autism in toddlers and pre-school children. Its goal is to intensively teach everyday skills to autistic children through constant social communication. The theoretical basis of the Denver Model is that if children are treated early enough and taught social communication skills, some of the symptoms typically associated with autism, such as repetitive actions and avoidance of social interactions, can be minimized.

Complementary Therapies

Art Therapy

The idea behind art therapy as an autism treatment is that people are better able to express themselves and their subconscious impulses through painting or drawing. Children who are unable to communicate through “normal” channels are sometimes able to draw beautifully descriptive pictures, although some may not draw anything recognizable, but the process in itself is calming and therapeutic. Children with autism may become so engrossed in the art they are creating that they are not aware of anything else going on around them. Once an autistic child has determined that he or she is finished with the task, he may stop abruptly, put everything down, and start wandering and behaving restlessly. In these cases, it is suggested that you get the child involved with another artistic task in order to minimize the chance of any negative behavior, such as hyperactivity or aggression.

Music Therapy

With music therapy, treatment is customized to each individual’s needs and may include increasing nonverbal interaction, exploring and expressing feelings, and being creative and spontaneous. There are claims that through music therapy, some autistic kids have developed verbal skills as a result of learning simple songs and nursery rhymes. Although in most cases children with autism will not respond to music in the same way as “normal” children would, any form of response that a child with autism displays could be viewed as a huge accomplishment, from a mere smile to the slightest swaying to the music.

Animal Therapy

Studies have shown that people with autism may have difficulties forming relationships with other people, showing emotion, and they may get frustrated and aggressive when they do not understand. With this autism treatment, animal therapy, individuals are given the opportunity to form bonds with animals. As they learn to take care of an animal, their autism symptoms may seem to dissipate. The child may no longer appear as frustrated or angry. Even the loneliness appears to dissolve, especially in the presence of their animal. As these symptoms diminish, autistic children may be more susceptible to learning new behaviors and developing desired social skills.

Auditory Integration Training (AIT)

AIT methods were developed by Dr. Guy Berard and Dr. Alfred Tomatis. The theory is that some people have a hypersensitivity toward certain sound frequencies which can make some very common sounds extremely painful. In AIT therapy, individuals wear headphones and repeatedly listen to sounds and music with certain frequencies filtered out. Over time, individuals report that this autism treatment has made responses to previously painful sounds less intense.

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Autism is a very serious and complicated neurological disorder. The cause of autism has not yet been conclusively determined as evidenced by the numerous theories circulating. The good news is that much attention has been given to this disorder and there are many autism treatments available that have shown promise. Although there is not yet a cure, if the correct combination of treatments can be provided to an individual, there is a chance that autistic children can progress toward a healthy and more productive life.

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