Is there a Cure for Autism?
Our understanding of autism has grown
since it was first described in
1943. Some of the earlier searches for 'cures' now seem unrealistic in terms of today's
understanding of brain-based disorders.To cure means "to restore to health, soundness,
or normality." In the medical sense, there is no cure for the differences in the brain which
result in autism.
However, we're finding better ways to understand
the disorder and help people cope with
the various symptoms of the disability. Some of these symptoms may lessen as the child
ages; others may disappear altogether. With appropriate intervention, many of the autism
behaviors can be positively changed, even to the point that the child or adult may appear
will, to the untrained person to no longer have autism. The majority of children and
adults however, continue to exhibit some symptoms of autism to some degree throughout
their entire lives.
What are the Most Effective Approaches to Autism?
Because of the spectrum nature of autism and the
many behavior combinations which
can occur, no one approach is effective in alleviating symptoms of autism in all cases.
Various types of therapies are available, including behavior modification, speech and
language therapy, sensory integration, vision therapy, music therapy, auditory training,
medications and dietary interventions, among others.
Experience has shown that individuals with autism
respond well to a highly structured,
specialized education and behavior modification program, tailored to the individual
needs of the person. A well designed intervention approach will include some level of
communication therapy, social skill development, sensory impairment therapy and
behavior modification at a minimum, delivered by autism trained professionals in a
consistent, comprehensive and coordinated manner. The more severe challenges of
some children with autism may be best addressed by a structured education and
behavior program which contains a 1: 1 teacher to student ratio or small group
Students with autism should have training in vocational
skills and community living skills
at the earliest possible age. Learning to cross a street safely, to make a simple purchase
or to ask assistance when needed are critical skills, and may be difficult, even for those
with average intelligence levels. Tasks that enhance the persons independence, give
more opportunity for personal choice or allow more freedom in the community are
To be effective, any approach should be flexible
in nature, rely on positive reinforcement,
be re-evaluated on a regular basis and provide a smooth transition from home to school
to community environments. A good program will also incorporate training and support
systems for the caregivers as well. Rarely can a family, classroom teacher or other
caregiver provide effective habilitation for a person with autism unless offered
consultation or in-service training by a specialist knowledgeable about the disability
A generation ago, 90% of the people with autism
were eventually placed in institutions.
Today, as a result of appropriate and individualized services and programs, even the
more severely disabled can be taught skills to allow them to develop to their fullest
From the Autism Society of America's web
'What is Autism?" developed and maintained on behalf of the ASA by Catriona Johnson & Ben Dorman.
Autism Society of America, 7910 Woodmont Ave, Suite 650, Bethesda, MD 20814-3015
tel: 1-800-3AUTISM (301) 657-0881; fax: (301) 657-0869.
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