No single treatment approach can take away all the traits of autism for everyone, but many behaviors can be positively changed with appropriate intervention. Sometimes the resulting changes are so significant that the person appears to no longer have autism. However, the majority of children and adults will continue to show some characteristics of the disorder to some degree throughout their lives.
While some students with autism attend regular school classes, many need training in vocational skills and community living skills. Learning to cross a street safely, shop and make change, or ask for assistance are critical skills that may be difficult even for individuals with average intelligence. Skills should be taught that would enhance the person’s independence, give more opportunity for personal choice and allow more freedom in the community.
To be effective, any approach should be flexible in nature, rely on positive strategies, be re-evaluated on a regular basis, and provide a smooth transition from home to school to community environments. A good program will also incorporate training and support systems for caregivers as well. Rarely can a family, classroom teacher or other caregiver provide effective habilitation for a person with autism unless offered consultation or in-service training by a knowledgeable specialist.
A generation ago, most people with autism were eventually placed in institutions. Today, as a result of appropriate and individualized services and programs, even the more severely disabled can be taught skills that will help them develop to their fullest potential.
Most professionals acknowledge that the treatment that has proven effective over time for the largest percentage of individuals with autism is a structured educational program geared to the individual’s development level.