According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are no known medications that can cure autism. However, there are medications and treatment strategies that can help children with autism manage their symptoms and function better.
Antecedent-based interventions (ABI) involve the modification of events and situations that precede the occurrence of a certain behavior. These strategic alterations are designed to decrease the likelihood of problems occurring and increase the likelihood of desired reactions and behaviors. These treatments were developed through the collaboration of behavioral psychologists and applied behavior analysis (ABA) specialists. For example, behavior chain interruption is used to increase target behaviors and behavioral momentum is used to encourage and reinforce current behaviors.
Motivating operations (MOs) result in a powerful influence by contriving a situation where one stimulus increases the value of a desired action. Other techniques include errorless learning, habit reversal, ritualistic activities, prompt fading procedures and environmental enrichment. Ritualistic and obsessive activities that promote learning, enjoyment and development are encouraged to help children with autism cope with everyday life.
These interventions reduce problem behaviors and teach appropriate alternative behaviors through applying the basic principles of conditioning and behavior change. The treatment strategies that fall into this category represent research from the fields of behavioral psychology and applied behavior analysis. Techniques to teach basic functionality include delayed contingencies, contingency mapping, generalization training and functional communication training. For instance, contingency maps help individuals understand the consequences of behaviors.
This cognitive-behavioral method is particularly useful for teaching individuals with autism to use appropriate behaviors as alternatives to problematic behaviors. These consequence maps are basically graphic organizers that visually explain behaviors and consequences. First, the behavior that needs to change must be clearly defined. Next, the function of the behavior must be determined, such as expressing frustration or disagreement. Finally, the contingency map is created by using picture symbols and photos to represent what happens as a result of the undesired behaviors.
Modeling interventions rely on peers and adults who can provide a demonstration of the desired behavior. This can be done for simple and complex behaviors through both live and video modeling. This type of intervention should be combined with other strategies like prompting and reinforcement. In addition to this, naturalist teaching interventions use child-directed interactions to model functional skills in natural environments. These interventions need to involve a stimulating environment, peers who model how to play, encouraging conversations and choices with natural reinforcements.
Peer training techniques involve teaching children without autism strategies for playing and interacting with children who have autism. Most of these peers are usually siblings or classmates. These treatments work poorly alone, but well with other interventions like prompting and self-management for peers. Besides, peer-mediated social interactions, the pivotal response treatment (PRT) intervention focuses on critical behavioral areas related to self-initiation, cue response and motivation to engage in social communication. This intervention focuses on parental involvement in the delivery process.
Related Resource: Top 20 Best Applied Behavior Analysis Programs
While there is no perfect medication or treatment strategy, those who want to cure autism can successfully manage it through scientifically established theories and interventions.