No cure exists for autism spectrum disorder, and there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. The range of home-based and school-based treatments and interventions for ASD can be overwhelming.
The goal of treatment is to maximize your child's ability to function by reducing ASD symptoms and supporting development and learning. Your health care provider can help identify resources in your area. Treatment options may include:
- Behavior and communication therapies. Many programs address the range of social, language and behavioral difficulties associated with ASD. Some programs focus on reducing problem behaviors and teaching new skills. Others focus on teaching children how to act in social situations or how to communicate better with others. Though children don't always outgrow ASD symptoms, they may learn to function well.
- Educational therapies. Children with ASD often respond well to highly structured educational 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 good progress.
- Family therapies. Parents and other family members can learn how to play and interact with their children in ways that promote social interaction skills, manage problem behaviors, and teach daily living skills and communication.
- Medications. No medication can improve the core signs of ASD, but certain medications can help control symptoms. For example, antidepressants may be prescribed for anxiety, and antipsychotic drugs are sometimes used to treat severe behavioral problems. Other medications may be prescribed if your child is hyperactive.
Managing other medical conditions
Children with autism spectrum disorder may also have other medical issues, such as epilepsy, sleep disorders, limited food preferences or stomach problems. Ask your child's doctor how to best manage these conditions together.
Keep all of your child's health care providers updated on any medications and supplements your child is taking. Some medications and supplements can interact, causing dangerous side effects.
Teens and young adults with ASD may have issues with body changes, increased social awareness and transitions. People with ASD often experience other mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression. Your health care provider and community advocacy and service organizations can offer help.
June 03, 2014
- Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development. http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/autism/Pages/default.aspx. Accessed Feb. 24, 2014.
- Volkmar F, et al. Practice parameter for the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 2014;53:237.
- LaBlanc LA, et al. Behavioral interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatric Clinics of North America. 2012;59:147.
- Autism spectrum disorder. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. http://www.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed Feb. 24, 2014.
- Weissman L, et al. Autism spectrum disorder in children and adolescents: Complementary and alternative therapies. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 24, 2014.
- Learn the signs — Act early: Concerned. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/concerned.html. Accessed Feb. 24, 2014.
- Autism spectrum disorder. American Psychiatric Association. http://www.psychiatry.org/dsm5. Accessed Feb. 24, 2014.
- A parent's guide to autism spectrum disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/a-parents-guide-to-autism-spectrum-disorder/what-are-the-symptoms-of-asd.shtml. Accessed Feb. 24, 2014.
- Augustyn M. Terminology, epidemiology, and pathogenesis of autism spectrum disorder. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 24, 2014.
- Bridgemohan C. Surveillance and screening for autism spectrum disorder in primary care. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 24, 2014.
- Cheuk DKL, et al. Acupuncture for autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD007992.pub2/abstract. Accessed March 3, 2014.
- American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement: Sensory integration therapies for children with developmental and behavioral disorders. Pediatrics. 2012;129:1186.
- Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs): Do vaccines cause autism spectrum disorders (ASDs)? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/topics.html. Accessed Feb. 24, 2014.
- Autism fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/autism/detail_autism.htm. Accessed Feb. 24, 2014.
- Highlights of changes from DSM-IV-TR to DSM-5. American Psychiatric Association. http://www.psychiatry.org/dsm5. Accessed Feb. 24, 2014.
- Chelation: Therapy or "therapy"? National Capital Poison Center. http://www.poison.org/current/chelationtherapy.htm. Accessed Feb. 24, 2014.
- Patterson MC (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 24, 2014.
- Tervo RC (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 28, 2014.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.