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Exploring Treatment Options for Patients with Autism

By Karen Simmons

Exploring Treatment Options for Patients with Autism

Although there is no known cure for autism, a combination of specialized treatment and education programs can often help many patients. The most common autism treatment options involve both occupational and physical therapy. Occupational therapy helps improve independent function and teaches patients basic skills such as buttoning a shirt or bathing - while physical therapy involves using exercise and other physical measures such as using massage and heat in order to help patients control body movements.

Other common autism treatment options include:

"Behavior modification

"Communication therapy

"Dietary modifications


Behavior modification:

There are several methods of behavior modification that are used to treat autistic patients. Most behavior modification principles are based on the theory that rewarded behavior is more likely to be repeated than behavior that is ignored. For instance, Sensory integration therapy is a type of behavior modification that focuses on helping autistic patients cope with different sensory stimulation. The treatment may include having the patient handle materials with different textures or listen to different sounds.

Play therapy is yet another type of behavior modification used to improve emotional development. Play therapy most often helps patients understand and cope with their own feelings and involves adult-child interaction that is controlled by the child. Along the same lines, another behavior modification technique called "social stories" can also prove helpful in improving an autism patient's undeveloped social skills. Using social stories helps a patient better understand their feelings, ideas, as well as the points of view of others, and may suggest to the patient an alternate response to a particular situation.

Communication therapy

Many other alternate treatment options for autistic patients involve the use of communication therapy

Communication therapy is used to treat autistic patients who are unable to communicate verbally, or to it may be used to initiate language development in young children with the disorder.

Today, clinical studies show that Video Modeling Therapy Programs are highly effective in teaching children with autism. One such program entitled "Special Kids" ( was pioneered by a father of a boy with autism, Special Kids maintains a distribution to over 500 different school systems within the USA as well as 30 different countries. The program helps children with a variety of developmental, cognitive and learning disabilities acquire speech, reading, writing, early academics, personal hygiene, self-help, social and play skills.

Another program, called 'Safety Harbor' is the brainchild of two school therapists, Anne Pesacov and Betty Dixon, as well as teaching artist Emily Harris. This series of eight workshops is designed to teach social skills to children with Asperger's syndrome through the use of puppets. To learn more about puppet-assisted relationship therapy, contact Betty S. Dixon of Tampa at (813) 431-9790, Emily Harris of Tarpon Springs at (727) 934-5890 or Anne Pesacov of Safety Harbor at (727) 738-9232.

The use of music has also proven to be an effective communication therapy for autism patients. Professor Tony Wigram. Head of PhD Studies in Music Therapy at the Institute for Music and Music Therapy at the University of Aalborg, Denmark has authored several books on the subject. He has concluded that since music therapy can be easily adjusted to an individual child's strengths and weaknesses it is often quite helpful in improving patient's deficiencies in social and communication skills

Yet another alternate treatment option for patients with autism is the use of Dolphin Assisted Therapy. The foundation of the Dolphin Assisted Therapy program in dates back to Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and the Black Sea. This field of medicine has shown extraordinary results in relation to the conventional methods of treatments such as prescribed medication.

An overview of Dolphin Assisted Therapy is available at :

Dietary modifications

Autism is not caused by diet so the use of dietary modifications and supplements to treat the disorder is somewhat controversial. Changing the diet or adding vitamin supplements may improve digestion and eliminate food intolerances or allergies, which may contribute to behavioral problems in autistic patients.

Scientific Researchers have discovered the byproducts found in wheat, oats and rye (gluten) and casein (protein in dairy products) have appeared at elevated levels in patients with autism. This may suggest that the digestion of these substances may affect brain function. However, eliminating foods that contain gluten and casein from the diet may cause side effects and should not be done without the advice of a health care practitioner.

Studies have also shown that vitamin B, magnesium and cod liver oil supplements (which contain vitamins A and D) may improve behavior, eye contact, attention span, and learning in autistic patients. Vitamin C has been shown to improve depression and lessen the severity of symptoms in patients with autism.

The DAN (Defeat Autism Now) Protocol is another dietary modification program gaining popularity.

The protocol involves a combination of changes to the diet and implementation of vitamin supplement therapy in order to produce changes in autistic behaviors. These diet changes include eliminating certain dairy and grains while supplementing the patient's diet with the vitamin and mineral therapy.

An overview of the DAN Protocol is available at :


Medication may be also be used to treat various symptoms of autism and can also be used to help other conditions that may accompany the disorder.

Depression, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and anxiety may be treated using antidepressants. These drugs often reduce the frequency and intensity of repetitive behavior; decrease irritability, tantrums, and aggression; and improve eye contact and responsiveness.

Benzodiazepines such as diazepam (Valium"), lorazepam (Ativan"), and alprazolam (Xanax") can also be used to treat behavioral problems. While antipsychotic medications such as clozapine (Clozaril"), risperidone (Risperdal"), olanzapine (Zyprexa"), and quetiapine (Seroquel") may decrease hyperactivity, behavioral problems, withdrawal, and aggression in autistic patients

Stimulants such as methylphenidate (Ritalin"), amphetamine (Adderall"), and dextroamphetamine (Dexedine") may also be prescribed for autism. These drugs may increase focus and decrease impulsive behavior and hyperactivity in patients.

It's best to consult a medical expert before considering any medications as the patient's medical history needs to be taken into consideration as well as possible side effects.

About The Author

Born in Oklahoma, in 1951, Karen L Simmons had her first book published in 1996. The book, Little Rainman, Autism Through The Eyes of A Child was written to raise awareness about the early detection signs of autism and has sold over 10,000 copies worldwide to parents and educators of these special children.

Autism Today is your #1 shop for all your Autism and Autism Spectrum disorders. Look us up at


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