Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

No cure exists for autism, and there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. The range of home-based and school-based treatments and interventions for autism can be overwhelming.

The goal of treatment is to maximize your child's ability to function by reducing autism symptoms and supporting development and learning. Your doctor 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 autism. 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 other people. Though children don't always outgrow autism, they may learn to function well.
  • Educational therapies. Children with autism often 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 good progress.
  • Family therapies. Parents and 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 autism, 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 may also have other medical conditions, 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 autism may have issues with body changes, increased social awareness and transitions. Your health care provider and community advocacy and service organizations can offer help.

Oct. 06, 2012