Supposed cures have been promoted on the Internet — vitamin shots, nutritional supplements, detoxifiers, special diets, pressurized rooms filled with pure oxygen and even chelation, the potentially dangerous removal of heavy metals from the body. But no evidence indicates that any of them can alleviate any of the core symptoms of autism, let alone eradicate it. The idea that autistic people could recover first took hold in , after O. Ivar Lovaas, the pioneer of A. An equal number of children, a control group, received 10 or fewer hours a week of A.
Lovaas claimed that nearly half the children receiving the more frequent treatment recovered; none in the control group did. By the s, after a public outcry, Lovaas and most of his followers abandoned aversives. In the last 18 months, however, two research groups have released rigorous, systematic studies, providing the best evidence yet that in fact a small but reliable subset of children really do overcome autism. The first, led by Deborah Fein , a clinical neuropsychologist who teaches at the University of Connecticut, looked at 34 young people, including B. In May, another set of researchers published a study that tracked 85 children from their autism diagnosis at age 2 for nearly two decades and found that about 9 percent of them no longer met the criteria for the disorder.
Autism specialists hailed the reports. This work, in a very careful and systematic way, shows these kids exist. The findings come at a time when the number of autism cases nationwide appears to be climbing rapidly. Experts attribute much of that increase to greater awareness of the disease and its symptoms, as well as to broader diagnostic criteria. Some researchers say additional factors — among them toxic substances and older parental age — may contribute to the rise as well.
Scientists suspect that what is called autism may actually be an array of distinct conditions that have different genetic and environmental etiologies but happen to produce similar symptoms. There do, however, seem to be some clues, like the role of I. But among those with a nonverbal I.
So do children who make striking improvements early on, especially in the first year of treatment — perhaps a sign that something about their brains or their kind of autism enables them to learn more readily. Financial resources, no doubt, help too.here
Making Dance/Movement Therapy the Therapy of Choice for Autism Spectrum Disorder
For now, though, the findings are simply hints. He spends his spare time playing video games, building robots, writing computer code and hanging out with friends at the local park near his home in a Phoenix suburb. While he seems like a fairly typical geeky teenager now, it took years of hard work to get here. Just before he turned 3, he received a diagnosis of medium to severe autism. He showed no apparent interest in those around him and seemed to understand few words.
He threw stunning tantrums. But he only got worse, having more fits and losing even more language. Within a few months, he was moved to the lowest-functioning class. Cynthia said a neurologist told her to be prepared to someday institutionalize her only child. In desperation, the Macluskies pulled Mark from school.
She gave her son shots of vitamin B and started him on a dairy-free, gluten-free and soy-free diet. In the end, Cynthia cobbled together a hour-per-week behavioral program, on top of the five hours a week of speech and occupational therapy that the state provided.
They were difficult years. Early on, Mark would hurl eggs at the wall and pour milk on the floor, so the Macluskies padlocked the refrigerator with a heavy chain. They emptied their living room of furniture, replacing it with an inflatable trampoline encircled by rubber walls so that Mark could whap against them to get the sensory input he seemed to need without hurting himself.
They made clear to Mark that if he wanted something to eat or drink, he would get it only if he conveyed his desires by using words or sign language or pointing to the relevant flashcard. By the time he turned 8, his speech and behavior were on par with peers, but his social thinking remained classically autistic. Cynthia set out to address his social delays. Around that time, his parents gave him a robot kit for Christmas, and he fell madly in love with it.
At first they just built robots, but soon the five children began writing programming code and entering competitions. Two years ago, Mark made it to the robotics world competition. There he was partnered randomly with teenagers from Singapore and had to strategize with them on the fly. They won several rounds. By then, it had been three years since a specialist concluded that despite some lingering social deficits, Mark no longer met the criteria for autism.
As Cynthia watched how well Mark worked with his teammates at that competition, she began sobbing so hard that she had to leave the auditorium.
Mark is also aware of how far he has come. I just felt like me. For Mark, the main remnant is his continued disgust at food that he considers slimy, like omelets, and his dislike for the texture of paper, which he avoids. Mark worked so hard. No one has figured out what happens inside the brains of people who had autism but no longer do — whether, for example, their brains were different from those of other autistic children to begin with, or whether their brains were similar but then changed because of treatment. But recent research on autistic toddlers by Geraldine Dawson of Duke reveals just how malleable the autistic brain can be.
Typically developing children show the reverse, and the parts of their brain responsible for language and social interaction are more developed than those of autistic children. So in a randomized clinical trial published in , she tracked two groups of autistic toddlers: one that received 25 hours a week of a behavioral therapy designed to increase social engagement, and a control group that received whatever treatments their community offered some behavioral, some not.
After two years, electroencephalograms showed that brain activity in the control group still strongly favored nonsocial stimuli, but the EEGs of the social-engagement group were now similar to those of typically developing children. It appeared that their brains had, in fact, changed. Though the children were still autistic, their I.
How this relates to people who are no longer autistic is not entirely clear. Receiving an autism diagnosis at 2, Matt received speech, occupational and physical therapy until he was 7 or 8. He remained obsessed with precision and order. He mentally kept track of the schedules and appointments for all five members of his family, knowing who had to be where at what time.
Cognitive and behavioral gains came next, but mastering social skills was a long, difficult process, as it is for most autistic children. Until well into middle school, Matt tended to blurt out whatever he was thinking, and it took him a while to put together the mechanics of conversation. It was hard to make my mouth listen to my brain.
I was afraid to talk to people. I put my head down when I was in the hall at school, walking to class or going home. I guess it was a bit of both. After a while, Matt began to figure out social situations. These days, Matt is affable, conversational and funny, a rising senior in high school. During the school year, he plays trumpet in the band and tennis on the varsity team, works as a cashier, busboy and bakery stocker at Panera Bread for 15 to 20 hours a week and still manages to get good grades.
He loves to hang out with family and friends. His bedroom, which he kept fanatically neat until adolescence, is now an utter mess — a shift that his mother jokes might be considered a sign of teenage normalcy, though not one she particularly welcomes.
Temple Grandin - Wikipedia
Matt remembers a few things about being an autistic preschooler, like how he used to flap and rock. He remembers his fixation with the Little People School Bus and the calm, deep focus he felt when he drove the toy around and around the kitchen for hours, dropping Little People off all over the floor, then picking them up again.
Mild echoes from his autistic days remain. When Matt is by himself watching an exciting game on TV, Laurie sometimes passes by and sees him flap his hands. Later, I mentioned that to Matt and asked what he was feeling when he flapped. Some people reject the idea that eliminating autism is the optimal outcome. Temple Grandin, for example, an author and animal scientist, credits her autism for her remarkable visual-spatial skills and her intense focus on detail, which allowed her to design her renowned humane-slaughter facilities for livestock.
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But they deeply resent the focus on erasing autism altogether. Why is no longer being autistic more of an optimal outcome than being an autistic person who lives independently, has friends and a job and is a contributing member of society? What proof is there that those who lose the diagnosis are any more successful or happy than those who remain autistic?
This is what we hear when you pray for a cure. Years later, Kraig came out as gay, and at 38 he committed suicide; his family blamed the treatment. Neurodiversity activists are troubled by the aspects of behavioral therapy that they think are designed less for the well-being of autistic people and more for the comfort of others.
Fein questions this interpretation.