Treatment of Autism

Thousands of scientists, researchers, doctors, occupational therapists, parents and other interested parties have been experimenting with various autism treatments for years and have delivered, largely through trial and error, significant advances. Due to these efforts, with the right programs, resources, and parental effort, it is possible to make a substantial impact upon autistic symptoms in a child with the disorder. The main treatment programs that have been used are discussed in brief below and in detail on the sub-pages listed on the left.

I believe these therapies can be made more effective if paired with recommendations on my Coping with Autism page and if researchers become versed in My Theory of Autism as a disorder of neural excitation and stress and apply that knowledge to make improvements in treatment delivery. These treatments are to a large degree, at least with the conventional treatments, compatible with my theory. And, my theory would predict that these treatments would, in most cases, result in success.

Scientifically Supported Treatments

The core, professional interventions in autism that are supported by scientific proof are the following:

     Behavior and Communication Therapies

Many programs have been developed to address the range of social, language and behavioral difficulties associated with autism. Some programs focus on reducing problem behaviors and teaching new skills. Other programs focus on teaching children how to act in social situations or how to communicate better with other people. Though children don't outgrow autism, they may learn to function better with the disorder. The behavioral therapies, led by Applied Behavioral Analysis, are the programs that probably have had the most positive impact on autistic children. To a large degree, the autistic children are simply being taught adaptive coping strategies  that their condition prevented them from finding on their own, ways to maneuver through the world and get what they want with as little stress as is possible.

     Educational Therapies

Children with autism frequently respond well to highly structured education programs. Successful programs often include a team of specialists and a variety of activities to improve social skills, communication and behavior. Preschool children who receive intensive, individualized behavioral interventions often show substantial progress. Again, these programs to a large degree work because they manage stress in the process, providing a sense of order and structure, not overwhelming the capacity of the child.

     Sensory Integration Programs

Sensory integration problems are a core characteristic of autism which are underappreciated by science - they aren't even in the diagnostic criteria of DSM-IVR. However, parents and occupational therapists are intimately aware of the sensory abnormalities and their impact on the child. Occupational therapists have learned through many years of trial and error approaches that autistic behaviors can be improved if the autistic child’s sensory sensitivities are identified and accounted for. Many autistic children improve if they are given firm touch such as a bear hugs, if the lighting is adjusted to remove fluorescent lights, if they are taken to a place where there is running water, or if other sensory accomodations are made. Each child is different, but managing the child's sensory experience of the world reduces stress and symptomatology.


Medications have not to date been shown to improve the core signs of autism, but certain medications are used to help control symptoms. Antidepressants may be prescribed for anxiety, for example, and antipsychotic drugs are sometimes used to treat severe behavioral problems. Medication is particularly useful if used on a limited basis to stop a cycle that has been building, such as depression, or in increasingly bad behaviors. I discuss this in detail on the sub-page.

Alternative Autism Treatments

Because autism is a devastating and so far medically incurable disorder, many parents seek out alternative therapies in an attempt to gain some control over their lives and the disorder. Though some families have reported good results with special diets and other complementary approaches, studies have not been able to confirm or deny the usefulness of these treatments. Alternative therapies that do not have scientific evidence supporting them, are many and varied, and include the following.

     Music and Art Programs

Some parents choose to supplement educational and medical intervention with art therapy or music therapy. This type of treatment carries no risk and according to my theory could very well help.

      Dietary Adjustments

Several diet strategies have been suggested as possible treatments for autism, including restriction of food allergens; probiotics; a yeast-free diet; a gluten-free, casein-free diet; and dietary supplements such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and magnesium, folic acid, vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. The diet that has been tried most extensively, and with the greatest anecdotal success, eliminates gluten, a protein found in most grains, including wheat, and casein (a milk protein). I discuss this in detail on the sub-page.


This treatment, which is recommended by some doctors and parents, is said to remove mercury from the body. However, no studies have shown a link between mercury and autism. On the FAQ section of this website, you can read about my thoughts on autism and mercury. And, chelation has not been shown to be a safe or effective treatment.


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