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Autism Treatments

Nonstandard Approaches to Autism

In trying to do everything possible to help their children, many parents are quick to try new treatments. Some treatments are developed by reputable therapists or by parents of a child with autism, yet when tested scientifically, cannot be proven to help. Before spending time and money and possibly slowing their child's progress, the family should talk with experts and evaluate the findings of objective reviewers. Following are some of the approaches that have not been shown to be effective in treating the majority of children with autism:

  • Facilitated Communication, which assumes that by supporting a nonverbal child's arms and fingers so that he can type on a keyboard, the child will be able to type out his inner thoughts. Several scientific studies have shown that the typed messages actually reflect the thoughts of the person providing the support.
  • Holding Therapy, in which the parent hugs the child for long periods of time, even if the child resists. Those who use this technique contend that it forges a bond between the parent and child. Some claim that it helps stimulate parts of the brain as the child senses the boundaries of her own body. There is no scientific evidence, however, to support these claims.
  • Auditory Integration Training, in which the child listens to a variety of sounds with the goal of improving language comprehension. Advocates of this method suggest that it helps people with autism receive more balanced sensory input from their environment. When tested using scientific procedures, the method was shown to be no more effective than listening to music.
  • Dolman/Delcato Method, in which people are made to crawl and move as they did at each stage of early development, in an attempt to learn missing skills. Again, no scientific studies support the effectiveness of the method.

It is critical that parents obtain reliable, objective information before enrolling their child in any treatment program. Programs that are not based on sound principles and tested through solid research can do more harm than good. They may frustrate the child and cause the family to lose money, time, and hope.