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Is There a Treatment for Autism?

Learn about autism treatments from pediatrician and child development expert Asma J. Sadiq, M.D. in this Howcast video.


So our commonly asked question is, is there a treatment for autism?

Well, there may be treatments that will help the symptoms and as we talked about the cause symptoms of speech and language, of socialization and of severative play or restricted play and stereotypies often can be worked with. The treatments that are commonly used are basically educational and behavioral because as you work with behavior, you work with education and increase their ability to learn. You also have to work with other areas that may be involved, not just speech and language therapy but possibly sensory integration or occupational therapy because these children have difficulty with self regulation. So you help that regulation and sensory integration piece to help the child possibly learn better.

Now each child is individual, somebody may also need physical therapy and that gets provided within the school system or privately. You can have auditory sensitivity and a lot of children need FM systems or a quiet or smaller class setting. So a lot of these accommodations can be done in school but also in the home environment. There are medical interventions that are available; a lot of these children have sleep issues. So as far as treatment goes, we're treating the sleep issue.

The only medication approved for treatment is really for a symptom of autism which is for the aggressiveness and irritability which is Risperdal; that is not the cure. We're treating a symptom and I think that's very important to differentiate as we are talking about treatments. There are also biomedical treatments that are being offered, which is looking at what is happening with the child at a cellular level and addressing that. A lot of children with the autism spectrum for example have low Vitamin D levels and that needs to be corrected because Vitamin D affects the immune function and kids with autism have immune function problems. So in addressing that, you are helping some of the symptoms.

Common interventional treatment that is popular is something known as the gluten free and casein free diet. Now some kids do have food allergy so intolerance to milk and reducing that milk or removing it from that diet can really make a big difference in not just GI symptoms or discomfort but also in communication and being engaged. People have looked at folinic acid or folic acid deficiencies in some of these children. There're a whole slew of different biomedical interventions that can be used in these children with the spectrum. For example, magnesium levels tend to be low and adding in the right amount of magnesium will also help with sleep as well as duct motility and constipation which is seen.

Diagnostically, I even use probiotics at times to see if that calms them down because a lot of these kids have hidden GI issues. So treatments are very tailored to the individual child. We are not talking cure but we're talking treatments and they are diverse between educational, behavioral, sensory and medical because they are comorbid conditions that can be treated and not just expect that, "Oh, this is just part of autism." Let's deal with those particular symptoms and make the child more comfortable and higher functioning and that's the goal of all treatment.

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