Treatments and Approaches for Autism
The briefs on treatments and approaches below will give you an idea of what is available. Before embarking on any therapy or treatment, consult your physician.
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Drugs don’t cure autism, but many autistic suffer from multiple problems such
as depression or seizures, and the drugs can help with those secondary problems.
The drugs most commonly prescribed are:
Anti psychotics (Mellaril, Haldol, Thorazine) – used to treat severe aggression,
self-injurous behavior, agitation or insomnia.
Anticonvulsants (Tegretol, Depakote, Dilantin) – used to control seizures.
Anti anxiety (Valium, Librium)
Anti depression (Lithium, Depakote) – used for bipolar manic depression.
Anti depression (Prozac, Anafranil, Paxil, Zoloft, Luvox) – used for regular
depression or compulsive behaviors.
Beta Blockers (Nadolol, Buspirone)-used to decrease aggression or hyperactivity.
Opiate Blockers (Naltrexone/Trexan) – control self injurious behaviors.
Sedatives (Chloral Hydrate, Noctec, and Benadryl) – for difficulty sleeping
Stimulants (Ritalin, Dexedrine)-for hyperactivity and attention or concentration
problems.Some of them have side effects.
Dimethylglycine (DMG), is a food substance and is most often used Vitamin/Mineral
Therapy. DMG is found, in small amounts, in brown rice and liver. Its chemical make-up
resembles that of water soluble vitamins, specifically vitamin B15. DMG does not require
a prescription, and it can be purchased at many health food stores. There are no apparent
Use 1/2 of a 125 mg tablet at breakfast for a few days. May be necessary to go up to one
to four tablets a day if the results are positive.
Reports from parents giving their child DMG indicate improvements in the areas of speech,
eye contact, social behavior, and attention span.
Two weeks after starting on the DMG, B6 and magnesium can be added. Studies have
shown that vitamin B6 may help control hyperactivity, and improve overall behavior.
Although improvements vary considerably among individuals, other possible improvements
are: speech improvements, improved sleeping patterns, lessened irritability, increased
attention span, decrease in self stimulation, and overall improvement in general health.
Anti yeast therapy
There are some evidence that candida albicans may cause or exacerbate behavior
and health problems in autistic individuals. The only physical symptoms are vaginal
yeast infections and thrush (white patches in mouth).
An overgrowth of candida albicans causes toxins to be released into the body which
are known to impair the central nervous system and the immune system. Some of the
behaviors related to this are, confusion, hyperactivity, short attention span, lethargy,
irritability, and aggression. Reported health problems can include headaches, intestinal
problems,(constipation, diarrhea, flatulence), distended stomach, excessive genital
touching in infants and young children, cravings for carbohydrates, fruits and sweets.
Unpleasant odor of hair and feet, acetone smell from mouth, and skin rashes.
Candida overgrowth is often attributed to long term antibiotic treatments. It has been
reported that some children whose autistic tendencies surfaced at 18- 24 months had
been continuously treated with antibiotics to control chronic ear infections. The treatment
doesn’t cure autism, but is helpful for some autistic children.
American Academy of Environmental Medicine, PO Box 16106, Denver CO 80216
Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory
Martin Lee & Stephen Barrie, Associates
18a Regent Park Boulevard
Asheville, NC 28806
Can provide kit for stool analysis used for determining yeast overgrowth.
Allergy Induced Autism and Casein free, Gluten free Diet
In allergy induced Autism, the symptoms usually become apparent during the first three years of life. Some children have autism that appears to have been triggered by intolerance to many foods and/or chemicals, the main offenders being wheat, cow’s milk, corn, sugar and citrus fruits, although each child may be affected by different substances. The children also have many almost unnoticeable physical problems, namely excessive thirst, excessive sweating, especially at night, low blood sugar, diarrhea, bloating, rhinitis, inability to control temperature, red face and/or ears and dark circles under the eyes.
It has been reported that a high percentage of autistic children had a “mutant” protein in
their urine that was created by eating gluten (found in wheat, oats, barley and rye grains)
and/or casein (milk protein) containing food. The mutant protein was the gluten and casein
protein bound to a morphine like substance. It’s believed that this was what was causing
the kids to become spacey and addicted to these foods. It won’t cure autism, but may help
with some secondary problems.
Auditory training can be considered a form of sensory integration in which stimulation
may sensitize or desensitize one or more senses. Theoretically speaking, if one or more
senses are impaired in an individual, he or she may develop a distorted perception of the
environment. There has been much research in the past 15 years to indicate that many
autistic individuals have sensory dysfunction in one or more areas.
There are two main types of auditory training methods, the Berard approach, lasting 10
to 12 days, and the Tomatis approach, lasting 6 to 12 months.The Berard training is
accomplished by a device which randomly selects high and low frequencies from a music
source and then sends those sounds via headphones to the trainee. Filtering peaks are
optional for the developmentally disabled population. The music is, in all cases, modulated
throughout the 10 hours of listening, whether or not peaks are filtered.
We do not know what percentage of autistic children may be helped by auditory training,
if any at all, nor how much they may be helped. The treatment is safe, but expensive.
Includes singing, movement to music, and playing instruments. Supposed to be a
good medium for kids with developmental disabilities because it requires no verbal
interaction, music is by nature structured, facilitates play, can aid in socialization
and influence behavior.
Doman/ Delacato Method
Carl Delacatto wrote a book called “The Ultimate Stranger”. He had a few interesting
points about “sensoryisms”, a terrifying sensations or distortions to senses. The distortions
can be hypersensitivity (too much stimulas entering the nervous system), hyposensitivity
(too little stimulus entering the nervous system) or white noise (internal static that disrupts
input from external stimuli).
Delacto Method are brain stimulation activities for brain injured children developed by
Glenn Doman and Carl Delacatto. It involves cross patterning, patterning and sensory
exercises developed to enhance memory and processing.
The delacato team evaluate a child and tailor a program to suit his/her needs. Programs
are working on senses in order to normalize them and are devised for parents to carry
out at home.They include massage for tactility, auditory and visual work, and tasks for
smell and taste, mobility and development. All tasks are fitted into 2 to 5 minute slots so
that the child does not become bored, and are repeated as necessary.
Doctors who manipulate the bones of the cranium. We do not recommend this
Holding therapy gained wide-spread attention when Dr Martha Welch, a child psychiatrist
from New York, began using it as a means of working with children with autism. Her work
is written in the book, Holding Time.
During holding therapy the parent attempts to make contact with the child in various ways.
This may mean simply comforting a distressed child, but often the parent may hold the child
for periods of time, even if the child is fighting against the embrace. The child sits or lies
face to face with the parent, who tries to establish eye contact, as well as to share feelings
verbally throughout the holding session. The parent remains calm and in control and offers
comfort when the child stops resisting.
Many people feel this is a variant of SIT (sensory integration therapy), which helps the child
adjust to and overcome sensory overload, and are holding therapy’s advocates. Some high
functioning autistic people have protested that this treatment is too traumatic.
Sensory Integration Therapy
A person is trained to deal with sensory sensitivities. The goal is to reduce that anxiety
through repeated exposure.
The Squeeze Machine
Developed by Temple Grandin. Supposed to reduce hyperactivity and tactile
defensiveness. Gives the autistic control over the amount of pressure exerted.
Lovaas therapy refers to the treatment model developed by Ivar Lovaas, Ph.D., at
the UCLA Clinic for the Behavioral Treatment of Children, and is mostly behavior
modification program. Dr. Lovaas has worked with autistic children for over 30
years, and studies show it helped some kids, but requires one-on-one with a trainer
for 40 hours a week.
The Son-Rise Program taught at the Option Institute and Fellowship
Barry Neil and Samahria Kaufman “cured” their autistic son, Raun, and then proceeded
to write a book about it “Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues”. They also founded the Option
Institute and Fellowship in Sheffield, MA. The Institute offers training for families wishing
to create home based Son-Rise Programs for their children.
At present, no formal studies or evaluations have validated the effectiveness of the
Son-Rise Program as a treatment for children with autism (we do not know if Raun
was ever formally diagnosed as autistic), and we do not recommend the program.
Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) was developed as augmentative/
alternative training package that allows nonverbal children and adults with autism and other
communication deficits to initiate communication. It was created with educators, residential
care providers and families in mind, and so it is readily used in a variety of settings. Verbal
prompts are not used, thus building immediate initiation and avoiding prompt dependency.
The system goes on to teach discrimination of symbols and then puts them all together in
simple “sentences.” Children are also taught to comment and answer direct questions.
The PECS Training Manual, is written by Lori Frost, MS, CCC/SLP and Dr. Andrew
Bondy. The manual provides all of the necessary information to implement PECS
effectively. It guides readers through the six phases of training and provides examples,
helpful hints, and templates for data and progress reporting.
Higashi (Daily Life Therapy)
Daily Life Therapy, pioneered by Dr Kiyo Kitahara at the Higashi School in Japan,
provides an education and emphasizes vigorous physical education and the arts.
The school is open to students 3-22, who are Autistic, Autistic like, or Pervasive
Developmental Disorder, and do not serve Multi-Handicapped (physically disabled),
Severe/Profound Mental Retardation, Emotionally Disturbed, Character Disorder, or
Uncontrolled Seizure Disorder.
A method is developed in Japan and imported into the USA. It includes elements
normally found in the education of autistic children, but places unusual attention to
Upon entering high school, all students participate in community work and ultimately
employment. Areas of employment opportunities include clerical, custodial, stocking,
food service and landscaping. All vocational students are paid employees.
TEACCH-Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication Handicapped CHildren
TEACCH is not a teaching or learning system, but a behavioral management system,which, when properly implemented delivers more predictable behavior and greater cooperation from the TEACCH subject, an Autistic child. In general I believe TEACCH is a productive program for low functioning autistic children, helping the child learn self care skills and preparing the child and the family for some degree of lifelong institutional involvement. TEACCH uses structure and modified environment to teach skills, using children affinity for routines and rituals to teach and reinforce, classrooms so structured and routinized that children are happy, but cannot truly learn to adapt to transitions and changes.
We do not recommend this program for higher functioning children who can be taught to
eventually lead a relatively normal life. While I believe that Autism/PDD are biological in
nature, environmental factors play a major role in the child ability to compensate for the
disorder and to better, more normal functioning. For more information about TEACCH
It is recognised that autistic children have difficulties with language, but it is clear
that traditional approaches emphasising mastery of the formal properties of language
are largely inappropriate: training children to speak is not going to bring about a
transformation of their behaviour. The autistic child needs to learn not so much how
to speak as how to use language socially to communicate.
That includes knowing how to hold a conversation, thinking about what the other
person in a conversation understands and believes, and tuning in to the meta-linguistic
signals of the other person, such as facial expression, tone of voice and body language.
It is important to remember that communication is as much nonverbal as it is verbal,
and autistic people have great difficulty understanding nonverbal language.
A speech pathologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of language problems
and speech disorders can help a person learn how to more effectively communicate.
Speech therapists working with a nonverbal autistic individuals, may consider alternatives
to the spoken word such as signing, typing, or a picture board with words.
Commonly focuses on improving fine motor skills, or sensory motor skills that include
balance (vestibular system), awareness of body position (proprioceptive system), and
touch (tactile system).
After the therapist identifies a specific problem, therapy may include sensory integration
activities such as: massage, firm touch, swinging, and bouncing.
Dealing With Bad Behaviors
If you have an adolescent on the spectrum and you need further help in disciplining then read this article on parenting defiant teens.