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There's no 'cure' for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but there are a range of specialist interventions that aim to improve communication skills and help with educational and social development.
It can be difficult to know which intervention will work best for your child, because each person with ASD is affected differently.
Some types of intervention can involve hours of intensive work, and this isn't always possible for many families because of the practical, emotional and financial commitments necessary.
The National Autistic Society website has information about the many different strategies and approaches available for ASD.
Any intervention should focus on important aspects of your child's development. These are:
The detailed assessment, management and co-ordination of care for children and young people with ASD should involve local specialist community-based multidisciplinary teams (sometimes called "local autism teams") working together. The team may include:
Local autism teams should ensure that every child or young person diagnosed with ASD has a case manager or key worker to manage and co-ordinate their treatment, care and support, as well as their transition into adult care.
The Research Autism website provides details of the many different types of autism interventions, treatments and therapies.
The parents of a child with ASD play a crucial role in supporting their child and improving their skills.
If your child has ASD, it's a good idea to find out as much as you can about the condition. The National Autistic Society website provides useful information and advice for parents, relatives and carers.
The Research Autism website is also a good source of information and has a section about the different issues that living with autism presents, including the impact of autism on the family.
Communication is particularly challenging for children with ASD. Helping your child to communicate can reduce anxiety and improve behaviour.
The following tips may be useful when communicating and interacting with your child:
In-depth advice and support programmes are available for parents of children recently diagnosed with ASD.
For example, the EarlyBird programme provided by The National Autistic Society is a free three-month course for parents whose child has been diagnosed with ASD, but hasn't started school yet.
The programme aims to inform and support parents, and offers practical advice about looking after their child and helping them improve their skills.
EarlyBird Plus is for parents of children who have received a later diagnosis of ASD and are four to eight years of age. The programme aims to address the child's needs at both home and school by training parents and carers, together with a professional who regularly works with their child.
EarlyBird and EarlyBird Plus programmes are run by licensed teams and are available in most parts of the UK. To find out if there's a team in your area, call 01226 779218 or email email@example.com.
If your child's behaviour is causing problems, they'll be assessed for possible triggers, such as a physical health condition, mental health problem, or environmental factors.
A physical or mental cause will be addressed using medication and/or psychological treatments.
In some cases, such as where a child with ASD also has an anxiety problem, a psychosocial treatment may also be recommended. These are supportive treatments that help people overcome challenges and maintain good mental health.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provides more information about interventions for challenging behaviour.
In some cases, medication may be prescribed to treat some of the symptoms or conditions associated with ASD. For example:
These medications can have significant side effects and are usually only prescribed by a doctor who specialises in the condition being treated. If medication is offered, your child will have regular check-ups to assess whether it's working.
A number of alternative treatments have been suggested for ASD. However, these should be avoided, because there's little or no evidence that they're effective and some may even be potentially dangerous.
Treatments that aren't recommended for ASD include: