How To Treat Autism?

What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or autism is a complex developmental condition involving constant communication challenges, decreased interests, personality, and behavioral issues. While autism is believed to be a lifelong disorder, the intensity of dysfunction varies in individuals with autism.

Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders

Parents, guardians, or pediatricians can see early signs of these conditions before the child turns one. However, the symptoms of the condition generally become all the more noticeable when a kid is 2 or 3 years of age. In some cases, the dysfunction connected with autism might be mild and unclear until the kid begins school, after which their lacking's might be expressed when among their companions.

Social communication lackings might incorporate:
  • Decreased sharing of interests with others
  • Difficulty appreciating their own & others' emotions
  • Aversion to maintaining eye contact
  • Lack of proficiency with the use of non-verbal gestures
  • Stilted or scripted speech
  • Interpreting abstract ideas literally
  • Difficulty making friends or keeping them
Restricted interests and repetitive behaviors may include:
  • The rigidity of behavior, severe difficulty coping with any change
  • Being extremely focused on some subjects and not caring about others
  • Expecting others to be equally interested in subjects that one is interested in
  • inability to adapt to new changes in routine and experiences
  • Being hypersensitive to senses, e.g., irritated by loud noises
  • Abnormal movements such as rocking, spinning, snapping fingers, hand flapping, etc
  • Arranging things, usually toys, in a particular manner

Parent, guardians, or teacher concerns about the child's behavior should lead to an evaluation by a specialized developmental pediatrician, pediatric psychologist, child neurologist, and a child & adolescent psychiatrist. The evaluation involves interviewing the parent, guardian, or teacher, observing and conversating with the child in a structured way. Sometimes additional tests are performed to rule out other disorders. In some unclear cases, the diagnosis of autism may be deferred. Still, otherwise, an early diagnosis can significantly improve a child's functioning by providing the family early access to supportive resources in the community.

The first step is seeking an evaluation. Most parents start with their pediatrician, who checks on developmental stages. You can get an evaluation through your local early intervention system if your child is younger than three years. But if they are older than three, you can get an evaluation through your local school even if your child do0es not go there.

Risk Factors

The present research suggests that several genetic factors such as those below may increase the risk of autism in a complex manner. 

  • Certain genetic conditions such as Tuberous Sclerosis and Fragile X Syndrome have been identified as vesting a particularly increased risk of being diagnosed with autism. 
  • When taken during pregnancy, certain medications, such as valproic acid and thalidomide, have been linked with a higher risk of autism. 
  • Having a brother or sister with autism also increases the likelihood of a child being diagnosed with autism. 
  • Parents being older at pregnancy is also linked with a greater risk of autism. 
  • Male kids tend to be diagnosed with autism more often than those assigned female sex health at birth, albeit this ratio changes over time.

On the other hand, vaccines haven't been shown to increase the possibility of an autism diagnosis. Moreover, factors like ethnicity, race, or socioeconomic status do not appear to have a relation either.


While there is no "cure" for autism, there are multiple known and effective interventions that can improve a child's autistic symptoms.

Non-medical Interventions

Applied behavioral analysis

It involves observing the child's functional challenges and creating a structured behavioral plan to improve their adaptive techniques and decrease inappropriate behavior.

Social skills training

It may be performed in a group or individual setting and is proven to help children with autism with navigating social situations.

Speech & language therapy

It can help improve a child's speaking and listening skills.  

Occupational therapy

It can address adaptive skills shortcomings with activities of daily living and problems with handwriting.

Parent management training

Parents can learn effective ways to respond to problematic behavior and encourage appropriate behavior in their children. Following are a few tips for the parents of autistic kids:

  • Learn about the autism spectrum disorder
  • Join support groups with other parents of children with autism
  • Seek specialist help for specific concerns
  • Give time to the child

Special education services

The school provides an individual education plan that accommodates a child's lackings like social communication shortcomings, repetitive behaviors, and restricted interests. Children with autism can reach their highest potential academically, including special classes for very young children to address language, life, and social skills.

Treating co-occurring conditions

Children with autism experience depression, insomnia, and anxiety more often than others. Also, they have ADHD more often. Children with autism can have an intellectual disability that needs attention. Proper services can reduce the impact of these conditions with the proper services, including all of the above, in addition to psychotherapy and medication treatment.

A child psychiatrist can diagnose co-morbid depression, anxiety, and impulsivity. There are certain medications, such as aripiprazole and risperidone to reduce autism-related irritability, prescribed judiciously by a knowledgeable clinician in collaboration with the child's parents.

Medical Interventions

Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN)

Low-dose naltrexone (LDN) exhibits benefits in several conditions, such as autism

Understanding Low-dose Naltrexone (LDN)

Naltrexone was first FDA-approved in 1984 for treating opioid addiction. It was later found that low-dose naltrexone can help with modulating the immune system. LDN is a safe alternative with very few side effects and low abuse potential. The drug is also cost-effective since it is required in a tiny amount.

Research on low-dose naltrexone has demonstrated considerable improvements in several diseases, like Crohn's disease, cancer, chronic fatigue, Lyme disease, and fibromyalgia. Along with these, it has shown promising results in children with autism as well.

Effects of LDN on Autism

Low-dose naltrexone acts as an effective medical intervention in patients with autism. In a survey, 75% of parents of autistic children reported that LDN successfully delivered beneficial results, including significant improvements in communication, cognition, and socialization. Positive effects like reducing restlessness, hyperactivity, inattention, and aggression were also reported. LDN can supposedly help with self-injurious behavior as well. It is described as a non-addicting, safe, inexpensive immunomodulating, and behavioral treatment.

Dosage for Children

Researchers found that children benefited from LDN dosages between 0.5mg to 2mg per kilogram per day. The drug helped with self-injurious behaviors during this dosing regimen. A reduction in agitation, hyperactivity, temper tantrum, stereotyped behavior, and social withdrawal was seen.

Although researchers studied a large part of the literature involved short-term durations and a small sample size, the studies concluded that naltrexone therapy trials could benefit children with low and high-functioning autism symptoms.

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Oxytocin is a hormone-induced in the body most commonly known for helping women with labor, birth, breastfeeding, and bonding with their newborns. It might help the babies develop trust, love, and social skills, like the ability to recognize emotions and empathize.

Understanding Oxytocin Therapy

Oxytocin infusion was introduced as a therapy for autistic people in 1983. The researchers concluded from animal studies that oxytocin is linked to animals grooming themselves too much and repetitive animal behavior.

Oxytocin can be taken by injection or nasal spray or through a tablet under the tongue. In most studies, a nasal oxytocin spray is used. The dosage of oxytocin is not very long, but the treatment might go on for some time.

Effects of Oxytocin on Autism

According to research, some autistic people have low oxytocin levels as compared to others, and their brains deal with oxytocin differently from other people's brains. Those who support this therapy believe that it plays a role in the development of autism. They also think that it could improve social skills and reduce repetitive behavior. But researchers don't yet fully understand how oxytocin works in the body and how it affects behavior.

Oxytocin has been trialed with autistic people who have anxiety, repetitive behavior, or social challenges and has tried to improve these issues. Moreover, it has been shown to help make eye contact, recognize emotions, and relieve gastrointestinal discomfort.

On the other hand, there are studies that have also shown negative effects. Even some studies have also shown no difference between oxytocin and a placebo.

Is oxytocin safe?

Oxytocin is considered quite safe, but some side effects have been reported. More detailed research is needed to compare its advantages and disadvantages. Until now, most studies have looked at short-term use and use for autistic adults. Recent studies are looking at the use of oxytocin for autistic children and using it in combination with other therapies. If oxytocin is prescribed to your child, ensure that they never miss a dose. Also, monitor its effects constantly.

Who practices oxytocin therapy?

A GP, psychiatrist, or pediatrician can prescribe oxytocin therapy. These specialists can also give you information about oxytocin and its potential side effects. Your child will be regularly monitored at appointments if your child has been prescribed oxytocin.

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Having an autistic child impacts the whole family as it can be time-consuming, stressful, draining, and expensive. It is very important for the whole family to pay attention to the physical and emotional health of the child. Several national and local advocacy bodies provide information, resources, and support to individuals with autism spectrum disorder and their families.  

Along with all these medications, parents/guardians try several complementary and alternative interventions involving special diets and supplements to help their child relieve their autism symptoms. There is no compelling evidence to recommend any such specific interventions until now. Research into these interventions continues, and parents/caregivers interested in them should discuss them with their child's treating clinician.