Intervention for autistic spectrum disorders
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- Filipek, P.A., Steinberg-Epstein, R. & Book, T.M. NeuroRX (2006) 3: 207. doi:10.1016/j.nurx.2006.01.014
A comprehensive approach to the assessment of any child with autism must be matched specifically to each individual child and family. This premise holds for medical therapies and special education services as well as psychopharmacologic interventions. Behavioral, as opposed to pharmacologic, treatment is the hallmark of effective intervention for autism. Physicians involved in the care of children with autism need to become familiar with educational law and intervention recommendations. Goals should include improved functional verbal and nonverbal communication and social skills, increased engagement in developmentally appropriate activities, improved fine and gross motor skills, and the development of independent academic and organizations skills, as well as replacement of problem behaviors with developmentally appropriate behaviors. Medicating children with autism is difficult, but is often necessary for chronic behavioral difficulties. In the absence of clear and present guidelines, we have attempted to use evidence and clinical experience to suggest an algorithm based on symptom clusters. Although children with autism may be responsive to medications at lower doses and more susceptible to side effects than other children, medical intervention can produce a significant improvement in the quality of life for the child and family. Careful thought leading to correct identification of target behaviors can appropriately direct better alternatives for medication. Although these approaches are costly and time-consuming endeavors, the expenditure of such efforts is the only available pathway to improve the potential outcomes for individuals with autism as well as decrease the lifetime societal costs for each individual.