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Is There a Cure for Autism?

Learn if there is a cure for autism from pediatrician and child development expert Asma J. Sadiq, M.D. in this Howcast video.


"Is there a cure for autism?"

This is a very commonly asked question by parents and I think the way I would rephrase it is really "We are providing treatment of symptoms", because autism is a symptom-based diagnosis. It’s based on certain diagnostic criteria and as these criteria are no longer valid, could we say the child is cured. And that's what a lot of parents are claiming and is being seen in some cases but I think the way to approach it is look at treatment of core symptoms and associated problems that need to be addressed and in addressing those problems, for example, we know kids have speech and language issues, or are not being able to communicate. So as speech and language improves and as communication skills and play skills improve and kids can be mainstreamed and with less and less support, they are really functioning like their typical peers and that can be considered curative.

But actually, a lot of little nuance symptoms may persist and I think the way to approach autism is really to look at treatments and treatment of symptoms versus going with the cure word because that is very controversial and it is varies based on what you consider cured for your child, based on the level of functioning that the child had, was impaired by, and has improved with. So cure is a word that is a catch word and one always wants that. It's like asthma, for example, we don't cure asthma but we manage the symptoms. When you are not suffering from it at that point, it feels curative, but things can flare up and you can have challenging issues which need to be looked at along this journey for this child who has been challenged.

We work for the symptoms, and that's how I would approach it. One of the concerns I have, when parents are very focused on the idea of curing their child with autism or with any condition, even a speech and language delay, I have seen children get services in the early years, went through early intervention, which has addressed the core symptoms that we see in children with autism, for example, the speech delay, the social engagement, the preservative play and as the child's language has improved or their sensory regulation or fine motor issues have improved, they no longer qualify for the services. And, because they are no longer qualifying for services, they are not getting the educational classification, and that delights the parent, but the child may still have issues. So, the medical diagnostic criteria is different from the educational diagnostic criteria and educational services.

So, I think it is important to differentiate from these points, much that it is delightful that your child is no longer needing services but there may be subtle issues that still may need to be addressed. If a child has previously been diagnosed with autism and that gap is actually not good because you can be missing out on years of intervention so I would be aggressive with working with the symptoms and not just being stuck with the educational diagnostic labeling system and working with your child who has once been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

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