You, or your family member, have received a diagnosis on the Autism spectrum. What comes next? Can it be fixed? What can you do for yourself? Where can you get help?
Not only can it be a long and frustrating process to get a diagnosis. Families for decades have found it even harder to get a clear sense of what to do next. This was especially true in the past when there was less awareness of Autism. A few specialized services helped a few children, sometimes as an adjunct to research and training. Then as now, when a new treatment or therapy appeared to hold promise, parents and concerned professionals would flock to it, often to have their hopes disappointed. Most families felt lucky if they could just survive. Many resigned themselves to a lifetime of barely coping with care for their disabled member. Some broke under impossible strains and gave up their autistic child or adult to some form of custodial care.
From the 1990s, we have seen a strong reaction against stoic acceptance or desperation. Special education is now mandatory in all North American jurisdictions. In what might be called a revolution of rising expectations, sufficient numbers of parents of young children are refusing to accept a life sentence for their autistic children and themselves. Two expressions of this revolution in North America have been efforts to promote and fund research, and the wave of support for early intervention programs, especially those using Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) techniques. Internet access has been very significant in these movements.
Various treatments and therapies have helped to make lives of people with Autism more bearable and meaningful, if none may actually cure their Autism. We outline some of them, with these cautions:
- No single or simple cause of Autism is known: there is no magic bullet, no elixir, no quick fix.
- Treatments and therapies used by and with persons with Autism did not usually develop from theories into practices. More commonly, observations of good or bad reactions to certain substances or experiences prompted a notion that a particular approach might help. A good many of these treatments and therapies may have been developed for people with other disabilities and were applied more recently to people on the Autism spectrum.
- Given the range of persons affected by Autism and related disorders, the pervasiveness of the impairments, and the likelihood that Autism has several causes, no one form of treatment alone is going to be enough for any individual person.
- A broader approach, based on developmental processes and relationships, may work better in the long term than a focus on only one symptom or problem area.
- Each individual can benefit from a holistic approach, uniquely designed for his or her abilities, and drawing upon various treatments and therapies.
- While most treatments or therapies have been proposed for children with Autism, some approaches could help some adults as well and are worth considering. We note, however, that some articulate adults strongly resist the idea that they need any form of treatment or therapy and want only their distinctive differences to be accepted and respected by society.
- What is the difference between a treatment and a therapy in the Autism context? Both terms may be used interchangeably but may differ in shades of meaning. A treatment implies that it can or might cure a disease or challenging condition; it is more intrusive, may have side effects, and is usually based on a medical model. A therapy is a way of easing the symptoms and helping a person to have some quality of life; it is less intrusive, does no harm if it is not fully successful, and is usually based on relationships.
- Thousands of print publications and millions of Internet pages have some information about treatments and therapies that might help someone with Autism. We comment on those in which we have some experience and which can be relevant to adults. We hope that others will add to the collective wisdom that accumulates in this site. Keywords may be used to search the Internet for website resources.
- Our purpose is to provide an information service and opportunities for discussion. Please note our disclaimer.
Please note that OAARSN provides resources for information purposes only. We do not endorse any treatment, program, product or service. The contents of this website are not medical, legal, technical or therapeutic advice. Information should be reviewed with qualified professionals. We will not be held responsible for misuse of information or for any adverse effects of recommendations mentioned on this website or on any other websites linked to it. Views, opinions or announcements posted by subscribers to any area of this site do not necessarily reflect those of OAARSN and we do not assume responsibility for any discrepancies or errors.