Autism is today, more accurately referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. The reason that the terminology has changed is that a newer, more nuanced understanding of ASD has brought to light that evaluating, diagnosing and treating ASD isn’t as simple as checking off a list of symptoms, and deciding this ASD child belongs one category, while another ASD child falls into a different category. The range of symptoms for ASD is very broad, and the intensity or severity of these individual symptoms can also have a wide range. One child, for example, may occasionally let the eyes stray during a conversation, while another cannot maintain any eye contact whatsoever when interacting with people.
The complexity of ASD means that while many of the symptoms are expressed as behavioral acts, there can be different reasons for this. This characteristic of a neurophysiological condition entangling different symptoms means that there are many different approaches to treating those symptoms. In some cases, behavioral therapy the most efficient way to address a symptom, where an ASD child learns new behaviors through conscious training and self-regulation.
However, in other cases, some form of typical medical treatment may be required. The prescription of certain medications or even the administration of certain medical procedures may be more appropriate. But what kind of medical treatments are used to manage ASD? Here’s a list of a few of the techniques, depending on the needs of the patient.
Because ASD patients can have difficulty interacting with others, this can be isolating and even alienating, resulting in negative emotional experiences like loneliness and, ultimately, depression. In the case of ASD patients, depression can make managing obsessive-compulsive disorder behaviors even more difficult, reinforcing a reliance on repetitive behaviors that can have a negative long term impact. Tricyclics are a specific type of anti-depressant that can ease more severe depression symptoms, allowing ASD patients to lessen their reliance on OCD patterns, take more affirmative actions and more productive behaviors and routines.
Hyperactivity is a behavioral trait where there is so much energy and distraction to do something that focuses on a single point or task can be difficult. Surprisingly, sometimes the best way to counteract the effects of hyperactivity is to prescribe stimulants. ASD patients, if correctly prescribed, can respond to stimulants by being able to maintain and hold focus for longer periods, decreasing the more distracting effects of hyperactivity, and learning to concentrate and regulate behavior in certain situations and settings.
Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors
Because ASD is a neurophysiological disorder, there can be a combination of behaviors developed as a result of the environment, and behaviors that may have roots in more hormonal or glandular issues. The application os Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs can be useful here. SSRIs may help to reduce anxiety, depression, tantrums, irritability and even hostile behavior. SSRIs work by restoring possible imbalances in the neurochemical system, allowing for more normalized reactions and behavior.
People diagnosed with ASD may be prone to very large, intense emotional reactions that are beyond their control. Some ASD children, as one example, experience an upset and anxiety when a routine is interrupted that is far out of proportion to what that routine is, such as not stacking blocks using a specific order of colors. This can cause irritation as a milder symptom, or range to panic and even anxiety attacks. Anti-anxiety medication can reduce this to help manage and overcome these ASD symptoms to learn to let go of certain unproductive routines.
In some cases, one of the symptoms of ASD can be seizures, similar to, or caused by epilepsy. About one-third of ASD patients suffer from seizures, so anticonvulsants can be an important part of preventing ASD patients from coming to harm as a result of seizures.
Ironically, before ASD was recognized as a unique disorder, it was often misdiagnosed as schizophrenia. One of the reasons for this was that some people with ASD would respond positively to the use of anti-psychotic medication. Risperidone, as one example, has been proven o manage chronic irritability in patients between the ages of 5-16 diagnosed with ASD.
Anti-psychotics can manage aggressive or violent emotions and behavior, help decrease hyperactivity, and even improve ASD patients expressing withdrawn behavior. It can be an effective way to give ASD patients more self-control and protect others in the same environment.
Stem Cell Therapy
A relatively recent addition to medical treatments available is stem cell therapy. These were originally used in cancer treatments, to help patients fight against leukemia, but with success in cancer treatments, more and more applications of stem cell therapy are being explored, and ASD treatment is one of those avenues.
While it’s still not fully documented, stem cell therapy has shown results in decreasing aggression, improving language skills, and even reducing physical symptoms like inflammation. It can be useful in helping the ASD diagnosed to reduce disruptive behavior and give them a chance to learn more positive behaviors through behavioral therapy.