A final consideration to keep in mind is that some children with autism—though certainly not all—may have underlying medical or co-morbid conditions that can affect their ability to respond or respond as well to evidence-based treatments. Medically addressing co-morbid conditions such as seizures/epilepsy, anxiety, gastrointestinal issues, and attention deficits may optimize other treatments may help to improve effectiveness of the behavioral treatment program. While there are presently no FDA approved medications that improve social-communication skills in individuals with autism, there are two that are approved to treat aggression and irritability. It is best to consult with a qualified developmental pediatrician or psychiatrist who can evaluate your child’s need, prescribe medication, and monitor health and overall progress while on the medication. Just keep in mind that the primary goal of using medication is to remove pain and/or discomfort; make attention more available; diminish irritability; and/or reduce seizures so that children with autism can more fully benefit from behavioral, educational, and therapeutic interventions. Again, an accurate assessment should identify whether there is any need or value in beginning a medical treatment regimen. If begun, ongoing assessment is critical for determining whether such treatments should be continued or adjusted.
For all children with autism, it is important to remember that comprehensive, socially valid and research-supported educational methods lie at the center of any effective package of interventions. Alternative therapies are often supported with anecdotal reports and testimonials, but lack scientific support. Anecdotal evidence should never be confused with researched efficacy. Taking the time to do your homework and selecting the right therapy and provider are key to ensuring children receive sound treatment. The selection process will be most effective if parents fully consider their child’s strengths and needs. You are expected to do your own research and draw conclusions about the appropriateness of a therapy for your child, as you know your child best. It may feel time consuming, but it is time well spent to ensure your child’s progress.