How is autism spectrum disorder (ASD) treated?

Updated: Sep 30, 2019
  • Author: James Robert Brasic, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Caroly Pataki, MD  more...
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Individualized, intensive behavioral and psychological interventions must be instituted immediately after the diagnosis of autism in order for the patient to achieve an optimal outcome. Although controversy surrounds the appropriate form of special education, some evidence suggests that an individual educational program must be developed by a special educator familiar with autistic disorder and related conditions.

Because deficits in language and communication are often major impediments to progress in educational, work, and personal settings, patients often benefit from specialized communication devices and training. Persons experienced in the needs and treatment of individuals with serious communication handicaps (ie, speech and language specialists) may help the patient to maximize communication skills.

Although psychoanalytic approaches to treatment of children with autism were common in the mid-20th century, these approaches were not found to be effective and are no longer used. Pharmacotherapy is ineffective in treating the core deficits of autism but may be effective in treating associated behavioral problems and comorbid disorders. The possible benefits from pharmacotherapy must be balanced against the likely adverse effects on a case-by-case basis. (See Treatment.)

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