How Is It Treated?
Thanks to greater awareness among parents and doctors, autism is being recognized sooner, which means therapies can be started earlier, increasing these kids' chances for a rich life. Almost 30 percent of kids who get intervention by age 2 or 3 make significant gains in speech and IQ and may even attend a regular classroom.
To assess autism, a psychologist, neurologist, or developmental pediatrician will observe the child and interview the patients. Treatment typically involves at least one other specialist: a speech therapist, occupational therapist, or behavioral therapist (who teaches skills by breaking things down into small steps and reinforcing proper behavior with a reward, such as a video or playtime) -- or maybe all three.
But parents are the real leaders of a child's intervention team. They're the ones teaching all the time, using everyday life experiences, says Dr. Powers. Serving dishes may be set just out of reach at mealtime, for example, so a child must ask for food. According to Dr. Powers, some parents become so good at engineering the environment to create teaching opportunities that it's almost like art.
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