Reason to Hope

When parents learn that their child is autistic, most wish they could magically make the problem go away. They looked forward to having a baby and watching their child learn and grow. Instead, they must face the fact that they have a child who may not live up to their dreams and will daily challenge their patience. Some families deny the problem or fantasize about an instant cure. They may take the child from one specialist to another, hoping for a different diagnosis. It is important for the family to eventually overcome their pain and deal with the problem, while still cherishing hopes for their child's future. Most families realize that their lives can move on.

Today, more than ever before, people with autism can be helped. A combination of early intervention, special education, family support, and in some cases, medication, is helping increasing numbers of children with autism to live more normal lives. Special interventions and education programs can expand their capacity to learn, communicate, and relate to others, while reducing the severity and frequency of disruptive behaviors. Medications can be used to help alleviate certain symptoms. Older children and adults like Paul may also benefit from the treatments that are available today. So, while no cure is in sight, it is possible to greatly improve the day-to-day life of children and adults with autism.

Today, a child who receives effective therapy and education has every hope of using his or her unique capacity to learn. Even some who are seriously mentally retarded can often master many self-help skills like cooking, dressing, doing laundry, and handling money. For such children, greater independence and self-care may be the primary training goals. Other youngsters may go on to learn basic academic skills, like reading, writing, and simple math. Many complete high school. Some, like Temple Grandin, may even earn college degrees. Like anyone else, their personal interests provide strong incentives to learn. Clearly, an important factor in developing a child's long-term potential for independence and success is early intervention. The sooner a child begins to receive help, the more opportunity for learning. Furthermore, because a young child's brain is still forming, scientists believe that early intervention gives children the best chance of developing their full potential. Even so, no matter when the child is diagnosed, it's never too late to begin treatment.

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