Sunday 1 July 2012

Autism 101: an introduction to the best ways to treat autism

Autism is commonly thought to be the result of neural abnormalities in the brain, essentially the chemistry of the brain. In popular culture autism is often linked to individuals with impaired social and communication skills, some of whom have extraordinary abilities for memory, music, art or technology. However, unsurprisingly the reality of autism is far more nuanced and intricate than in the elaborations of popular fiction. 

The exact cause or causes of autism remain unknown. The current thinking is that a combination of factors probably leads to autism. A core factor for susceptibility appears to be genetics – we know this because identical twins are more likely to both have autism than fraternal twins or siblings. Additionally, chromosome abnormalities, neurological problems and language abnormalities are more common in families dealing with autism. A number of possible causes are suspected but are as yet unproven - these range from vaccine sensitivity, mercury poisoning, digestive issues and the inability to absorb vitamins and minerals.

Children with signs of autism have difficulties with pretend play, social interactions and verbal and nonverbal communication. Most parents suspect something is wrong before the child reaches two years old. Some children can also appear normal and then regress, losing their language and/or social skills they previously had. This is the ‘regressive’ type of autism. People with autism often have sensory integration issues, and may experience distress when routines are changed. Repetitive body movements and unusual attachments to objects can also be a feature.

Treatment is always most successful when it focuses on a child's particular needs. Early treatment in most cases improves the prospects for a child with autism, but this doesn’t mean that treatment at a later stage won’t help or have the effect that an earlier intervention could have. In general, formal treatment programs focus on the interest of the child. A specialist or a team of specialists will often devise a structured programme for an individual child. A variety of therapies are available, including behavioural interventions, occupational therapy, communication support, and social skills development. The best treatment programme will often be a combination of techniques.

It has been documented that a gluten-free and/or casein-free diet can help to alleviate the symptoms of autism. Gluten is found in wheat, rye and barley. Casein is found in all dairy products. If you are considering some dietary changes for your child you should talk to a specialist on the digestive system, whether this is a specialist doctor or a good dietician. They will help you to make sure that your child is still receiving the balanced diet they need.

Adults diagnosed with autism
More adults are being diagnosed with autism than ever before, this is mostly down to our greater understanding of the symptoms of autism. It can sometimes be a relief to adults to find out they are autistic as it can help to make sense of why they have struggled for so long with things like relationships and holding down a job. The treatment for adults diagnosed with autism will depend on the individual and their needs. Cognitive therapy is often a good starting point, but the other therapies mentioned in this article can also be of great benefit and can go a long way to help the individual with relationships and in dealing with social situations.

Complementary approaches
Other methods are available that support the more traditional treatments, such as play therapy, psychotherapy, aromatherapy, reflexology and homeopathy. Individuals with autism and Asperger Syndrome can also benefit from treatments that have traditionally been used to treat anxiety and depression. Treatments include cognitive restructuring, psychotherapy and hypnotherapy

Recognising the complex nature of Autistic conditions the Therapy Room Cambidge have now introduced an Integrated Autism Therapy Clinic.

Here are some approaches to treating autism that can help and may be of interest to you:

·       Counselling
·       Functional Health Care
·       Hypnotherapy
·       Osteopathy
·       Psychotherapy

Whatever course of action you decide on just make sure you speak to a specialist first.

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