Treatment of Autism in Children

Standard guidelines have been developed to help identify autism in children before the age of 24 months. In the past, diagnosis of autism was often not made until late preschool-age or later. According to the guidelines, all children before the age of 24 months should routinely be screened for autism and other developmental delays during regular check-ups. Children that show developmental delays and other behavior disorders should be further tested for autism.

Autism Treatment

Specialized behavioral and educational programs are designed to treat autism. Behavioral therapy is used to teach social skills, motor skills, and cognitive (thinking) skills. Behavior modification is also useful in reducing or eliminating maladaptive behaviors. Individualized treatment planning for behavioral therapy is important as autistic children vary greatly in their behavioral needs. Intensive behavior therapy during early childhood and home-based approaches training and involving parents are considered to produce the best results.

Special education programs that are highly structured focus on developing social skills, speech, language, self-care, and job skills. Medication is also helpful in treating symptoms of autism in some children. Mental health professionals provide parent counseling, social skills training, and individual therapy. They also help families identify and participate in treatment programs based on an individual child's treatment needs. Specific treatment will be determined by your child's doctor based on:

  • Your child's age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the disorder
  • Your child's symptoms
  • Your child's tolerance for specific medications or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the disorder
  • Your opinion or preference

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all children should be screened for autism spectrum disorders at 18 months and 24 months, regardless of whether any signs are apparent or any concerns have surfaced about a child’s developmental progress. By screening children early for autism, those diagnosed with the disorder can be treated immediately and aggressively. Consult your doctor or health care provider if you need to have your child screened for autism.

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