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Treatment for Autism

Q: Can you please tell me how to cure or treat an autistic child. My brother''s daughter who is 3 years old has this. Can you please suggest any treatment for the same?

A:Autism is a brain disorder that affects an individual''s ability to communicate effectively with other people. This disorder is evident very early in life - usually before the child is 30 months old. Autism affects all areas of social, psychological, emotional and language development. It is characterised by the child''s withdrawal from any social contact, to the extent that he seems to be living in a world of his own. There is an inability to relate to other people and to respond appropriately to stimuli in the environment. Autism is most often also associated with intellectual and language problems in the child. Autism is not a mental illness as it was previously believed to be. It is also not a result of bad parenting. Autism is caused due to abnormalities in brain structure or functions. There may be a defect in the chemicals called neurotransmitters that transfer impulses in the brain. Injury to the child during birth may also be a possible cause of autistic disorders. However, the exact cause of the disorder is not known. There is no medical treatment or cure for autism. The aim of treatment is to minimize disruptive behaviours and to integrate the child effectively into mainstream society. In order to achieve this, the treatment approach is multi-faceted. The earlier the treatment starts, the better is the chance of the child being effectively adjusted into the society. Behavioural therapy in which a child's behaviour is modified to minimize aggressive and destructive behaviours and enhance socially acceptable ones, is most effective. In this therapy, the child is rewarded for desirable behaviours and undesirable behaviours are discouraged until they become extinct. The rewards first start with concrete objects and are finally brought down to abstract things like verbal praise. Speech therapy is started for the child as soon as possible. It consists of structured educational programmes in which the child''s responsiveness to sounds is moderated. Activities to improve the child''s eye contact are also used.

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