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Environment should adapt to child

Very individualized

Psycho Educational Profile- increase social, coping skills

Look for cause of behavior and then provide appropriate alternate behavior

Too structured

Child focused more on charts, schedules than behavior change

- Mostly anecdotal evidence to support effectiveness

- Few non author related research on outcomes

- More empirical evidence needed to assess efficacy.

Picture Exchange Communication Systems

(See Table 3 for reference)

Focused on acquisition of communication skills

Clearly understood and initiated by child

Uses ABA based method

Picture used to show want to communicate


Not much known about experimental data.

Floor Time


(See Table 3 for reference)

Emotional development

Encourages social interaction

Build skills off existing development abilities

Used best as an adjunct therapy

No empirical, peer-reviewed studies (cannot say effective or not)

Social Stories




(See Table 3 for reference)

Increase ability to recognize point of view of others

Focus on Social Skills


Develop story to provide info to child about expectations in situation


 Not much known about experimental data.

Sensory Integration


(See Table 3 for reference)

Sensory problems

Desensitization; Understand individual sensory needs

Does not teach higher functioning skills

Little to no experimental data to assess efficacy

(cannot say effective or not)

Facilitated Communication

(See Table 3 for reference)

Communication skills caused by motor deficits

Support arm to help communicate by computer

Not scientifically validated

Many major professional assoc. oppose use

Miller Method

(Symbol Accentuation Reading Program)


(See Table 3 for reference)

Child cannot organize and understand surroundings


Use of equipment and pictures to teach reading/writing and expansion ability to interact with environment


Very few studies measuring outcomes.  Not well substantiated.

Son Rise







(See Table 3 for reference)

Total acceptance of child and ability and if child could do better, they would.

3 part teaching program for parents, etc to implement therapy

Focus on love and acceptance and motivating child to learn 

Intensive (40-hr per week) for both child and family

No peer reviewed studies show effectiveness (cannot say effective or not)






(See Table 3 for reference)

Low levels of certain vit in child (i.e. A, B1, B3, etc).

Vitamins help with creating change in body to relieve symptoms of autism

Controversial results- more robust studies needed.

Inconclusive evidence Experimental studies have not reached consensus.  Studies those show positive effect said to have design problems.  

Complementary TX.

Art/Music/Animal Therapy

Provide child with these skills, inc. social interaction and accomplishments

Used mainly as conjunct therapy and not alone





(See Table 3 for reference)

Disruptions in neuro-chemistry

Balances neurochemistry

Exact etiologies in brain unknown, medications may have unwanted side effects.

More research needed.

Shown effective in certain situations.  Only under advise of physician due to potential side effects.


This section will speak a bit to the role of medication in autism.  Frequently, autism occurs along with other psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and mental retardation (9, 18).  A study has shown that within those that have autism 41.9% are severely mentally impaired, 29.4% are moderately mentally impaired, and 19.3% are minimally or not mentally impaired (24).  Other disorders that occur in autistic people include epilepsy, sleep disorder, self-injurious behaviors, Tourette’s syndrome, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (24).

Many times, doctors will prescribe medications to help with certain autistic symptoms and psychiatric disorders.  However, the role of medication is complex.  Any parent or guardian should know that 1) There is no known medication that will cure autism 2) Many drugs have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in children and 3) Drugs can have some undesirable side effects.  Therefore, when seeking out medication, it is important to be aware of the potential benefits and effects.  The complex nature of medicating a child with autism (and possible psychiatric comorbidities) necessitates parental discussions with a healthcare provider. 

There are many types of psychiatric drugs that are used in treating autism.  Many times, the type of drug therapy is chosen because of existing comorbidites as stated above.  The different drugs include; selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRI’s ie. Prozac and Zoloft) that have been shown to improve social contacts and repetitive movement, antipsychotic (Zyprexa, Geodon, and Risperdal) have been used to decrease the aggressive behaviors, and anti-epileptics and Ritalin have been used in autistic children with epilepsy and inattention and hyperactivity disorder, respectively (9).  This chapter chooses not to discuss these medications any further, but refers the reader to resources that do an excellent job of discussing medications.[5]


            Effective treatment is not only important to the individual child and family, but also to the public healthcare and costs of the community.  Millions of dollars can be spent on a treatment that may ultimately be found ineffective. Therefore, public health and educational officials want to invest in effective treatments that will have a positive benefit to cost analysis.  While the federal and state governments are legally bound to pay most of the bill (up to $60,000 per year), parents are left paying for anything that is not covered.[6]  Therefore, finding effective treatment is important for any parent of a child with autism.

            It can be difficult to find appropriate effective treatment for an autistic child.  Many times, the specialized centers that claim specialized treatment are found in big cities.  However, it is important to find effective treatment nearest you.  Otherwise, travel expenses will be added to the treatment costs.  So the question comes down to, where can parents go to get the care that they need? 

After a diagnosis is made, the first stop every parent should make is to their pediatrician’s office.  Here, the different treatment options can be discussed. Furthermore, the office will contain resources on different organizations that may help with a child’s treatment.  These could include psychologists, specialized therapists, case workers, teachers, advocacy groups, nutritionists, support groups, and even insurance and legal needs.  Inevitably, once the parent arrives at home, there will be many additional questions that still remain unanswered.  This is the time when additional resources are usually required.  Included below is a list of websites where these different resources can be assessed.  Most of these websites provide lists of organizations, sometimes in one’s neighborhood, that one can contact directly, through phone, email, or a personal visit.  

Websites on Specific Treatments

            These websites are the “official” websites of some of the treatments for autism.  Where official websites are not applicable or additional resources may be helpful, there are other resources.  At these websites, you will be able to read about their theories and methods, and get their contact information to call or write the organizations.  Please note that because some of these sites were set up by the very people who promote the therapies, it may be biased in depiction of the therapy.  This chapter does not endorse any of these websites or their content.  It is recommended that the reader gather data from many different resources so one can make an educated decision.

Table 3.  Resources for Specific Treatments


Endorsed Treatment Method


Autism Treatment Center of America



Autism Research Institute (ARI)

Vitamin Therapy


TEACCH program



Pyramid Educational Consultants

Picture Exchange Communication Systems


The Floor time Foundation

Floor time


The Miller Method

Miller Method


The Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding

Social Stories


Facilitated Communication Institute

Facilitated Communication






Applied Behavior Analysis

Applied Behavior Analysis




Comprehensive Websites

            These websites provides the viewer with information on different treatment options and facilities.

Table 4. Resources for Autism Treatment




Yale Child Study Center

- list of national/regional/state support organizations

- Name, number, address, email given of many organizations


Families for Early Autism Treatment

- FEAT organization available in certain US cities

- Provides contact info on public agencies, treatment organizations, advocacy options, medical and healthcare (etc.) in the cities


Local Chapters of the Autism Society of America

- excellent directory

- provides information on your specific zip code

-choice of many different services (including legal, day care, ASA chapter, autistic camps)


à Under Resources

Autism Treatment Information

- Ample information on ABA

- Book List, “How to” lists (i.e. How to recruit people to work as therapists), newsletter, contacts to parents/professionals in your area


Future Horizons

- Books, videos, conferences, magazines (many multi-media items) on autism

- site is a distributor (you can purchase items here)



Educating those with Autism

            Providing an education to an autistic child requires tailoring a plan to each individual child.  The abilities of those with autism can vary widely from child to child, as they can be of below normal intelligence, normal intelligence or savants.  Therefore, the most important aspect of their education is the formulation of an individualized plan that focuses on the weaknesses (and strengths) of each child (20).  This very fact makes education an autistic child, a challenging, but rewarding, endeavor. 

             In the 1999-2000 school year, the average amount spent to educate an autistic child was $18,000 US.  This compares to the cost of educating a “normal” child, which was $6,556 US, the average special education child, $ 12, 500 US, and a child with multiple disabilities, $20,100 US (21).

            In 1997, the federal government passed an updated version of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which provides these children with a free education, which is funded by your public schools.  From 1993 to 2002, the number of autistic children receiving assistance from IDEA increased 500% from 20,000 to 120,000, respectively (21).

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: (IDEA)

            The IDEA is a federal law that requires free and the least restrictive public education for all kids with disabilities in the United States (20).  There are two other federal laws that protect the educational rights of those with disabilities; Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, which protects educational records and their dissemination and the Section 504 Rehabilitation Act of 1973, protects those with disabilities against discrimination (20).

The IDEA states that every child, from the ages of 3 to 21, has the right to receive evaluation, and if deemed disability, has the right to (20):

An unrestrictive education means that when at all possible the child should be placed in a classroom with other non-disabled children.  However, this classroom environment should be tailored to fit the needs of the disabled child.  If placing in a classroom with non-disabled children is not feasible due to the needs of the child, the next least environment should be used.  

Individual Educational Plans (IEP’s) are plans that state the individuals education plan, including the goals for that child during that school year, the services and persons needed to meet those goals, a timeline of the each service, and the outline of how the goals will be evaluated.  Furthermore, if the child is above the age of 16, there needs to be an outline and goals of helping these children move from in school to out of school.  The goals of the IEP should not only include academic goals, but also functional, behavioral, occupational, and social skills (20).  These skills are important because one of the goals of the IDEA is to prepare children with disabilities to function within society after the age of 21.

No IEP should be the same, as they should reflect the goals of each child.  A meeting should be conducted to discuss the goals of the IEP and should include the parents, the teacher, another person other from a third agency, and outside persons that are felt necessary by either the teacher or the parent (20).  An important inclusion in the IEP is any additional training that the teacher may find necessary to best provide education to the child.  For example, a teacher who has an autistic child may find it necessary to attend a seminar on autism or on the different treatments for autistic children.

As A Parent You Have the Right To:

As a parent of an autistic child, one is afforded many rights under the IDEA law.  It is extremely crucial to remember that the parent is the child’s number one advocate (22, 23).  Understanding the rules that govern the rights of parents is necessary to maximize the benefits one’s child can receive in school.

·        The school must request written permission to test a child for a learning disability from the parents or legal guardians.

·        The parents must be notified in written form if the school refuses to test the child.

·        The parents must be kept up to date with testing information and skills to be tested.

·        Parents have the right to challenge a diagnosis.  They have the right to get a second opinion from a specialist outside of school.

·        Parents have the right to review all testing results before any meeting to decide action to be taken.

·        Other than certain school officials, parental consent is needed for anyone to look at the child’s testing records.

·        At that meeting, all testing results (from any assessment) must be reviewed.

·        Parents must be notified when the school is to re-evaluate the child.

·        Parents have the right to request mediation or a due process hearing if they do not agree with the schools assessment.


            A diagnosis of autism can be very devastating to the child and the family.  The family may need to make certain changes.  However, with the right support group, autism does not necessarily negatively impact the child and the family.  With the advancement of therapies and educational components, autistic children can thrive in their environments.   The parents of an autistic child should take an active role in advocating for the needs of their child.  Hopefully through resources like this chapter, parents can equip themselves with the knowledge that they need to provide their child with the best possible opportunities for improvement. 


This bibliography includes a sampling of references (not an exhaustive list) that will provide additional information for the interested reader.  Hopefully, an interested reader can use this bibliography as a starting point in their research on specific topics. 

Background Information

1.  American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed. Text Revision). Washington, DC. American Psychiatric Association; 2000.

2.  Frith, U. Autism: Explaining the Enigma (2nd Ed). Blackwell Publishing; United Kingdom: 2003.

* Uta Frith has written a books and articles, and provides a good, basic review of autism in an easy to read format.

3. Edelson, S M. Center for the Study of Autism. (12/4/2004).  Retrieved from www.autism.org/contents.html  on March 8, 2005.



1. Baird, G, Charman, R, Cox, A, Baron-Cohen, S, Swettenham, J, Wheelwright, S, & Drew, A.

Screening and surveillance for autism and pervasive developmental disorders.  Archives of Disorder Child. 2001 84: 468-475

2. Centers for Disease Control. Child Development.  Retrieved from

    www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/child/devtool.htm  on April 12, 2005.


Biological Plausibility

1. National Institute of Mental Health. Autism Spectrum Disorders (Pervasive Developmental

    Disorders).  2004. Retrieved from www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/autism.cfm  on April 5, 2005.

2. Tsai, L Y. Psychopharmacology in Autism. Psychometric Medicine. 1999 61: 651-665.

3. Gerali, R & Gerali, J. Autism: a target of pharmacotherapies?. Drug Discovery Today. 2004


4. Rubenstein, JRL & Merzenich, M M. Model of Autism: increased ratio of excitation/inhibition   

    in key neural systems. Genes and Brain Behavior.  2004 2: 255-267.

5. Crandell, J. Development of Cerebral Cortex. Retrieved

    from www.umassmed.edu/shriver/resarch/biomedical/projects/cortex.cfm on April 16, 2005.



1. Saffron, R. ABA Resources for Recovery of Autism/PDD/Hyperlexia.  Retrieved from   

    members.tripod,com/RSaffran/aba.html on April, 15, 2005.

2. National Autistic Society. Useful websites: approaches, therapies, and intervention.  Retrieved

    from www.nas.org.uk/nas/jsp/polopol.jsp  on April 15, 2005.

3. Rogers, S. Empirically Supported Comprehensive Treatments for Young Children with

    Autism. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology. 1998 27(2): 168-179.

4. Wobus, J. Autism Resources.  Retrieved from www.autism-resources.com  on April 15, 2005.

5. Waltz, M.  Medical Reference.  Retrieved from

     http://www.patientcenters.com/autism/news/med_reference.html on April 25, 2005.


This author would like to especially thank Doug Kou and Sara Mavinkurve


1.      American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed. Text Revision). Washington, DC. American Psychiatric Association; 2000.

2.      Firth, U. Autism: Explaining the Enigma (2nd Ed). Blackwell Publishing; United Kingdom: 2003.

3.      Wolff, S. The history of autism. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 2004; 13: 201-208.

4.      Centers for Disease Control.  About Autism. Retrieved from

      http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/ on March 20, 2005.

5.      World Health Organization.  International classification of functioning, disability, and Health (2000).  Retrieved from  www.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/WHA54/ea5418.pdf  on Nov. 5, 2004. 

6.      World Health Organization. The ICD-10 classification of mental and behavioral disorders: clinical descriptions and diagnostic guidelines. Geneva: WHO; 1992.

7.      Howlin, P. Practitioner Review: Psychological and Educational Treatments for Autism. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 1998 39 (3): 307-322.

8.      Edelson, S M. Center for the Study of Autism. (12/4/2004).  Retrieved from

      www.autism.org/contents.html  on March 8, 2005.

9.      National Institute of Mental Health. Autism Spectrum Disorders (Pervasive Developmental Disorders).  2004.  Retrieved from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/autism.cfm on April, 2005.

10.  Baird, G, Charman, R, Cox, A, Baron-Cohen, S, Swettenham, J, Wheelwright, S, & Drew, A. Screening and surveillance for autism and pervasive developmental disorders.  Archives of Disorder Child. 2001 84: 468-475.

11.  Furneaux, B, Roberts, B (ed). Autistics children. Routledge & Kegan Paul; London: 1977.

12.  Wakefield AJ, Murch SH, Anthony A, Linnell J, Casson DM, Malik M, Berelowitz M, Dhillon AP, Thomson MA, Harvey P, Valentine A, Davies SE, Walker-Smith JA.  Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children.  Lancet 1998 351(9103):637-41.

13.  Autism Information Center.  Retrieved from

www.cdc.gov/ncbdd/dd/aic/about/default.htm  on March 18, 2005.

14.  Center for the Study of Autism.  Retrieved from www.autism.org on March 18, 2005.

15.  Gerlai, R & Gerlai, J. Autism: a target of pharmacotherapies?. Drug Discovery Today. 2004 9(8).

16.  Rubenstein, JLR & Merzenich, M M. Model of Autism: increased ratio of excitation/inhibition in key neural systems. Genes and Brain Behavior. 2004 2: 255-267.

17.  Bailey, A et al. Autism as a strongly genetic disorder: evidence from a British twin study. Psychological Medicine. 1995. 25: 63-77.

18.  Tsai, L Y. Psychopharmacology in Autism. Psychosomatic Medicine. 1999. 61: 651-665.

19.  Crandell, J. Development of the Cerebral Cortex. Retrieved from


on April 16, 2005.

20.  Autism Info: All about Autism. Retrieved from www.autism-society.org  on March 18, 2005.

21.  United States Government Accountability Office. Special Education: Children with Autism.  Report to the Chairman and Ranking Minority Member Subcommittee on Human Rights and Wellness, Communication on Government Reform, House of Representatives (January, 2005). Retrieved from

http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d05220.pdf on March 20, 2005.

22.  The Civil Rights Project Harvard University. Action Kit: Discrimination in Special

      Education.   Retrieved from


      on April 15, 2005.

23. Autism Society of America.  IDEA and Your Child’s Rights. Retrieved from

      www.autism-society.org/site/PageServer?pagename=IDEA on April 15, 2005.

24.  Yoshida Y, Uchiyama T. The clinical necessity for assessing Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity

Disorder (AD/HD) symptoms in children with high-functioning Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). European Child Adolescent Psychiatry. 2004 13(5):307-14.


[1] See Bibliography: Screening for additional information

[2] See Bibliography: Biological: ref. Gerali (2004)  & Rubenstein  (2004)

[3] See Bibliography: Biological: ref National Institutes of Mental Health. 

[4] See Bibliography: Treatment for additional information

[5] See Bibliography.  Biological ref NIH ref Tsai  and Pls. See Table 3

[6] Health insurance coverage of autistic therapy varies.  Therefore, it is important to understand your health insurance coverage plan early on in treatment process.

[7] See Bibliography: Biol Plausability: Tsai for an more in-depth look at medications

[8] Link to an academic organization that focuses on recent research