Early Intervention and treatment for Autism

Katherine - posted on 12/03/2010 ( 8 moms have responded )




Types of Treatments

The National Institute of Mental Health and the Autism Society of America suggest a list of questions parents can ask when planning treatmentsExternal Web Site Icon for their child.

There are many different types of treatments available. For example, auditory training, discrete trial training, vitamin therapy, anti-yeast therapy, facilitated communication, music therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and sensory integration.

The different types of treatments can generally be broken down into the following categories:

* Behavior and Communication Approaches

* Dietary Approaches

* Medication

* Complementary and Alternative Medicine


Behavior and Communication Approaches

According to reports by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Research Council, behavior and communication approaches that help children with ASDs are those that provide structure, direction, and organization for the child in addition to family participation.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

Photo: Child playing with a puzzleA notable treatment approach for people with an ASD is called applied behavior analysis (ABA). ABA has become widely accepted among health care professionals and used in many schools and treatment clinics. ABA encourages positive behaviors and discourages negative behaviors in order to improve a variety of skills. The child’s progress is tracked and measured.

There are different types of ABA. Following are some examples:

* Discrete Trial Training (DTT)

DTT is a style of teaching that uses a series of trials to teach each step of a desired behavior or response. Lessons are broken down into their simplest parts and positive reinforcement is used to reward correct answers and behaviors. Incorrect answers are ignored.

* Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI)

This is a type of ABA for very young children with an ASD, usually younger than five, and often younger than three.

* Pivotal Response Training (PRT)

PRT aims to increase a child’s motivation to learn, monitor his own behavior, and initiate communication with others. Positive changes in these behaviors should have widespread effects on other behaviors.

* Verbal Behavior Intervention (VBI)

VBI is a type of ABA that focuses on teaching verbal skills.

Other therapies that can be part of a complete treatment program for a child with an ASD include:

Developmental, Individual Differences, Relationship-Based Approach (DIR; also called “Floortime”)

Floortime focuses on emotional and relational development (feelings, relationships with caregivers). It also focuses on how the child deals with sights, sounds, and smells.

Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication-handicapped CHildren (TEACCH) External Web Site Icon

TEAACH uses visual cues to teach skills. For example, picture cards can help teach a child how to get dressed by breaking information down into small steps.

Photo: man helping child with buttons on shirtOccupational Therapy

Occupational therapy teaches skills that help the person live as independently as possible. Skills might include dressing, eating, bathing, and relating to people.

Sensory Integration Therapy

Sensory integration therapy helps the person deal with sensory information, like sights, sounds, and smells. Sensory integration therapy could help a child who is bothered by certain sounds or does not like to be touched.

Speech Therapy

Speech therapy helps to improve the person’s communication skills. Some people are able to learn verbal communication skills. For others, using gestures or picture boards is more realistic.

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

PECS uses picture symbols to teach communication skills. The person is taught to use picture symbols to ask and answer questions and have a conversation.

Visit the Autism SpeaksExternal Web Site Icon or Easter SealsExternal Web Site Icon website to read more about these therapies.

Dietary Approaches

Some dietary treatments have been developed by reliable therapists. But many of these treatments do not have the scientific support needed for widespread recommendation. An unproven treatment might help one child, but may not help another.

Many biomedical interventions call for changes in diet. Such changes include removing certain types of foods from a child’s diet and using vitamin or mineral supplements. Dietary treatments are based on the idea that food allergies or lack of vitamins and minerals cause symptoms of ASDs. Some parents feel that dietary changes make a difference in how their child acts or feels.

If you are thinking about changing your child’s diet, talk to the doctor first. Or talk with a nutritionist to be sure your child is getting important vitamins and minerals.


There are no medications that can cure ASDs or even treat the main symptoms. But there are medications that can help some people with related symptoms. For example, medication might help manage high energy levels, inability to focus, depression, or seizures. Also, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of risperidone (an antipsychotic drug) to treat 5- to 16-year-old children with ASDs who have severe tantrums, aggression, and cause self-injury.

To learn more about medications and ASDs go to National Institute of Mental Health autism website.External Web Site Icon

Complementary and Alternative Treatments

To relieve the symptoms of ASDs, some parents and health care professionals use treatments that are outside of what is typically recommended by the pediatrician. These types of treatments are known as complementary and alternative treatments (CAM). They might include special diets, chelation (a treatment to remove heavy metals like lead from the body), biologicals (e.g., secretin), or body-based systems (like deep pressure).[3]

These types of treatments are very controversial. Current research shows that as many as one third of parents of children with an ASD may have tried complementary or alternative medicine treatments, and up to 10% may be using a potentially dangerous treatment.[4] Before starting such a treatment, check it out carefully, and talk to your child’s doctor.

To learn more about CAM therapies, go to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Get the FactsExternal Web Site Icon webpage.

The Goals of RDI

Dr. Steven Gutstein is the creator of the RDI (Relationship Development Intervention) program. The program is parent-centered, and, according to the literature, is intended to help lay missing pathways in the brain. The claims made for RDI are extraordinary; according to the literature, by following the system parents can expect their children to develop:

* Dramatic improvement in meaningful communication,

* Desire and skills to share their experiences with others,

* Genuine curiosity and enthusiasm for other people,

* Ability to adapt easily and “go with the flow,”

* Amazing increase in the initiation of joint attention,

* Powerful improvement in perspective taking and theory of mind,

* Dramatically increased desire to seek out and interact with peers.

Additional Treatment Resources

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication DisordersExternal Web Site Icon has a website to help individuals with an ASD who have communication challenges.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial ResearchExternal Web Site Icon has a website to help health professionals with the oral health care needs of patients with an ASD.

Clinical Trials.GovExternal Web Site Icon lists federally funded clinical trials that are looking for participants. If you or someone you know would like to take part in an autism study, go to the website and search “autism.”

The Autism Treatment NetworkExternal Web Site Icon (ATN) seeks to create standards of medical treatment that will be made broadly available to physicians, researchers, parents, policy makers, and others who want to improve the care of individuals with autism. ATN is also developing a shared national medical database to record the results of treatments and studies at any of their five established regional treatment centers.



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Geralyn - posted on 12/09/2010




Hi Kathy! That is such a great success story about your 2 sons. I think its important to hear the positive outcomes. It is a long stressful road to get there, but you have worked so hard for your children, and your children have worked so hard.... I have heard of RDI. We have several people/consultants here in Northern California.

Kathy - posted on 12/08/2010




It really is a great program...It did so much for both my children Dx that I am now a consultant....so not only are my children my passion but now my career! :) Glad to have found this group!

Kathy - posted on 12/07/2010




Wow you are fast! haha :) Here is a glimpse of my children via my hubbys utube channel ( he is abit crazy as a Dad but we love him hee hee) My 9 year old was Dx 6 years ago as severe and I was told he would never function and talk...as you will see that is not the case!! RDI Rocks.

Kathy - posted on 12/07/2010




I am a mom of two children who were Dx on the spectrum and one is recovered and the other son is on his way after RDI. I noticed RDI was not noted here....have you not heard of it?

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