Autism Therapy and Treatment Options

No two kids on the autism spectrum are the same, and often, neither are their treatments. Here’s what you need to know about finding the right approach for your child.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has two main hallmarks: difficulty with communication and social interactions and a tendency toward restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. But no two children on the spectrum are alike, which can make an ASD diagnosis particularly overwhelming. It can be hard to understand which aspects of your child’s behavior and development are part of her ASD and which are typical for her age or just idiosyncratic parts of her personality. You may also worry that your child’s issues are too severe or ingrained for treatment to make much difference, but it’s important not to lose hope. “With good treatment, many and increasingly more children will get better,” says Parents advisor Fred Volkmar, M.D., director of the Child Study Center at Yale University School of Medicine. “By that I mean they will grow up to be self-sufficient adults who can live independently. They may never be problem-free, but we see many children do very well.”

If your child has been diagnosed with ASD, you’ll need to find an autism specialist who can partner with you in your child’s care. That specialist may be a neuropsychologist or neuropsychiatrist, a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist, or a developmental pediatrician. “The key is that he or she has special training in understanding the needs of kids on the spectrum,” says Michael Rosenthal, Ph.D., a pediatric neuropsychologist who specializes in autism at the Child Mind Institute in New York City. Your pediatrician should be able to make referrals; you can also contact the Autism Response Team at Autism Speaks for help finding a qualified specialist in your area. Once you find the right therapist, he or she will work with you and your child to devise a treatment program that will look something like this:


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