wikiHow to Treat Autism

Three Methods:Getting HelpChoosing TherapiesCreating a Positive Environment

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are developmental disabilities that cause considerable impairment in social interplay and communication, and lead the individual to exhibit atypical behavior and preoccupation. Autistic people respond differently to stimuli, learn differently, and vary in intellectual capabilities. While autism is a lifelong condition, some of its corresponding difficulties can be mitigated or overcome.

Method 1
Getting Help

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    Seek professional help. Health care providers rely on behavioral symptoms and/or written questionnaires during routine checkups. There are screening tests that can also be done during these visits. If your doctor does not regularly screen for autism, ask for her to do so.
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    Understand that every autistic person is different. There is no one-size-fits-all approach for autism. Tailor treatment to the individual's needs.
    • For example, one autistic person may have excellent self-care skills and above-average school performance, but need sensory integration therapy and social skills training. Another might be highly social but unable to care for herself and in need of counseling for depression.
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    Consider medications. While there is no "cure" for autism, some of its harmful symptoms and comorbid conditions can be helped through medication.
    • Anxiety
    • Elevated energy level
    • Self-injurious behavior
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Depression
    • Seizures
    • Severe outburst of anger or aggression
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    Consult with your health care provider to ensure your loved one is receiving the proper treatments for his/her individual needs.
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    Consider comorbid conditions. Many autistic people also experience comorbid disabilities/health conditions, such as anxiety disorders, epilepsy, digestive issues, depression, ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, and more. These are all treatable.

Method 2
Choosing Therapies

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    Try the Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) for developing communication skills, especially for nonverbal autistic people.[1][2] Rapid prompting involves continuously asking questions to the autistic person, and letting them answer using writing, pointing to a letter board, speaking, or whatever works best.[3] It encourages the autistic person to communicate and engage with the world more.
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    Consider Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) to teach social skills. RDI focuses on developing skills such as theory of mind, independent thinking, consideration of others, and more.[4] It is a long-term therapy.
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    Consider behavioral therapies such as ABA, with caution. Behavioral therapy can teach rote tasks using extrinsic rewards, and can be useful for concrete skills such as hand-washing, listening to the word "stop," and tying shoes. Unfortunately, there are many stories of goals that involve compliance,[5] forced normalization,[6] and abuse. Choose therapists carefully and make sure the focus is on teaching your loved one skills, not on forcing them to conform.
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    Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help with anxiety and depression, which often accompany autism. CBT is a form of talk therapy that can help identify distorted thoughts, such as "Everybody will laugh at me if I flap my hands" or "I am a burden to my family," and evaluate their accuracy.
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    Try Sensory Integration Therapy and a sensory diet to help with sensory issues. An occupational therapist can work with you and/or your loved one to provide strategies to meet the autistic person's needs.
    • A sensory diet is a set of activities to do at home, like climbing trees, finger painting, swinging, blowing bubbles, et cetera. It can help meet the autistic person's needs and acclimate them to various stimuli. It can also be a lot of fun.
    • The therapist can also help redirect harmful stims (e.g. hitting one's head) towards ones that fulfill the same need without causing harm (e.g. hitting a pillow, applying deep pressure to the head).
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    Consider complementary and alternative treatments. There is no scientific evidence that any of them are helpful at all, but some people find them useful. The following is a list of treatments that fit this category and examples of what they may involve:
    • Energy therapy - reiki, acupuncture, Therapeutic Touch
    • Alternative medical systems - aromatherapy, homeopathy
    • Manipulative and body-based method - deep pressure, acupressure, hydro massage
    • Mind-body intervention - auditory integration, meditation, dance therapy
    • Biologically based therapy - using herbs, special diet, and vitamins
    • Always consult a doctor before making a major change to a child's diet or life. Some alternative therapies, such as chelation therapy or MMS, are potentially deadly.[7][8] If your child is upset by the therapy, or fails to improve, find a new therapy.
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    Watch for fake therapies and false claims. From common snake oil peddlers to certified BCBAs, there are people who will distort truths and support ideas that can harm you or your loved one. Trust your instincts, don't let fearmongering make you panic, and don't continue a therapy if you think it is upsetting you or your child too much.
    • Therapy should not be extremely painful or distressing. A therapist should take the patient's unhappiness seriously.
    • 40 hours per week of therapy is as intense as a full-time job. This can be overwhelming. Small children do not have adult attention spans. Your child will be fine with 1-2 hours per day or less, and there's no rush.[9][10]
    • Transparency is a reasonable request. Therapists should not prevent you from witnessing a situation, or dodge your questions.
    • People who claim to cure autism are not being honest. Autism is probably genetic, not caused by vaccines or parasites.
    • Your instincts matter. If a therapist is telling you to ignore your gut feeling, that you're being irrational, or that you would intervene if you saw what they were doing to your child, this is a problem.

Method 3
Creating a Positive Environment

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    Treat your loved one with kindness and respect. Autistic people can undergo tremendous amounts of pressure to perform "normally,"[11] and the best way to help them is to respect them.[12] Make it clear that you will listen to them. If they feel supported at home, they will communicate and adapt better, and feel happy.
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    Talk to your loved one often to encourage communication. Children learn to understand speech by hearing others speak, and talking to an uncommunicative person will encourage them to open up (even if the conversations are fairly one-sided for now). If you know what their special interests are, start conversations about them.
    • Read their body language as you talk to them. For example, if you ask your daughter "Did you play with your friends today?" and she squeals happily and waves her arms, this is her answer. This communication is a stepping stone and should be encouraged.
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    Presume competence. Act with the assumption that your loved one can hear and understand you, even if it doesn't look like it. Treat them like they are fundamentally good and intelligent. Positive expectations can help them bloom.
    • If your loved one is in the room, assume they can hear what you're saying. If you talk about how hard it is to live with an autistic child, they'll worry that they make your life worse by existing.[13] Save your adult fears for when the children are out of the room.
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    Be transparent about what's going on. Let them know that they're autistic. This can help them have words for their experiences, and dispel any confusion that they're "broken" or "bad." Let them know that they're just different, that this is okay, and you love them for who they are.


  • Remember that ASDs cannot be cured, and will remain with child for their lifetime. Also remember that just because the child is autistic, it makes them no less aware of what is happening. Try to treat them like normal people, help them when they need it, and teach them that a disability does not lessen their worth as a human being. Instead, show them it can be as much of an advantage as a disadvantage.
  • It may be beneficial to try to introduce them to acting, and to other Autistic people. Acting will help work on their social skills, and meeting others with similar difficulties may help them to perceive the world in a brighter way, and they can share coping methods and support each other.
  • Explore culture. Look at language, writing, the arts (or other intellectual boundaries) and you will find something your child connects with. A few autistic people have rare "savant" abilities, such as playing piano or solving difficult mathematical equations.


  • Be aware of potential comorbid conditions. These include anxiety, depression, epilepsy, attention deficits, sensory concerns, sleep difficulties, or gastrointestinal problems.
  • Only try to fix the behaviours that actually cause problems, as 'fixing' harmless odd behaviours will just damage your child's self-esteem
  • Never tell a child that autism is a disease without a cure, or that they are a burden to the family. Many autistic adults struggle with self-esteem as a result of damaging rhetoric.[14]

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Categories: Coaching Autistic People | Autism Spectrum