ASD typically presents lifelong challenges for individuals on the spectrum as well as for their family members. Autism conditions can cause severely disabling behavioural, communication, sensory and medical problems, but with today’s improved understanding of ASDs, many of these symptoms can now be alleviated.
Unique Needs: The effects of an ASD on a person's life vary for each individual and all approaches must be sensitive to the unique needs of each person. For some people who are "high functioning", societal reactions to social differences may be more disabling than any actual "symptoms" or problems caused by ASD.
While not required by every person with an ASD, intervention, treatment programs and support services are fundamentally necessary for the majority of people with ASDs to help them to develop, learn, make use of their unique strengths, improve their quality of life and reach their full potential.
This section of our website provides a summary of the many treatments, educational approaches and interventions that have been developed to support children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
New therapeutic approaches services and therapies for autism-related difficulties are being made available every day and it can be very confusing for families and individuals with ASDs to sort through all the possible offerings. Before starting any intervention we would recommend that you learn as much as possible about the intervention, consult with your medical team and speak with your nearest Autism Society to discuss any particular approach.
Access to Treatment: Autism Society Canada believes (with strong support from the international ASD research community) that all people with ASDs should have access to effective treatment models and the right to choose treatments which are in the best interests of the individual. Children and adults on the spectrum also need access to necessary educational, social, family, vocational and community supports and interventions.
The ability to reach one's full potential and to receive a meaningful education is often dependant upon the availability and accessibility of evidence-based treatment. Access to individualized education coupled with structured treatment which addresses autism characteristics and adaptive communication can greatly improve a person's quality of life, including their ability to learn, communicate with others and care for themselves. [See Evaluating Programs.] The largest body of published research is on behavior-based programming, speech therapy, and individualized educational plans, all of which have been shown to be effective in helping children and adults affected by ASDs, primarily by teaching new skills in a step-by-step approach, strengthening communication and working with a person’s strengths and interests – all of which enable the individual to have more success at home, at school, at work, and out in the community.
Co-occurring conditions in autism such as seizures, sensory problems, anxiety, gastro-intestinal problems and other physical or mental symptoms or illnesses must also be fully investigated and treated by a person’s medical team.
Families, teachers, other caregivers, and individuals with ASDs should approach any new treatment or intervention for ASDs with caution and consideration. Any treatment which claims to have the "cure" for autistic characteristics or offers overnight solutions to learning disabilities or behaviour issues should be avoided. In many cases, the effectiveness of these approaches has not been substantiated in any kind of scientifically-based (controlled and peer-reviewed) research. See Evaluating Programs.
Families should receive professional guidance in considering all interventions that may be in the best interests of the individual before making a treatment choice. Programs may include a combination of approaches, depending on the training of the professionals involved. Parent/family and staff training are key, as is careful case management. The right of choice regarding treatment is crucial, but in reality the ability to choose is severely undermined by the lack of universally available effective treatments and required services across Canada. The Right to Treatment