News and Notes from The Johnson Center

Q & A: Can autism be cured?

JCCHD | Thu, June 21, 2012 | [Applied Behavior Analysis][Autism Treatment][Q and A ]

The Cure for All Ills! Oh, don't we wish ...As every parent of a child with special needs knows, the moment when someone tells you your child has a disorder that will make the road ahead a challenge—one that may mean isolation and hardship—that is the moment when everything changes. That is the moment when we can find our fear, our courage, our strength, our weakness, our despair, and our truest love. And it is the moment when we all ask, “Is there a cure?”

We all want our children to have happy, rewarding lives, and it is only natural to try to spare them from hardship and heartache.  And the blessing is that we do have many more answers now than we did even ten years ago. There is research that supports appropriate educational and behavioral therapies. There is also research that tells us that our children often have medical issues that, at the very least, contribute to some of their health and behavioral symptoms—and we have some answers on how to best address those issues.

But there is no cure. There has been debate over whether a “cure” is needed or whether the true answer lies in acceptance, but for those children who lie awake in pain every night, who hit themselves on the head until they bleed, who struggle for a way to communicate their needs or cope with their anxiety, for these children, we must find answers so that they may find peace and good health. 

We now know that improvement and resolution of the symptoms and delays associated with ASDs have been observed and reported by parents, educators, clinicians, and diagnosticians. Medical interventions designed to address documented disease and dysfunction as well as promote health, coupled with appropriate, intensive behavioral interventions, provide the best opportunity for the resolution of the symptoms and behaviors of autism.

In Dr. Martha Herbert’s book, The Autism Revolution, she describes people with autism as having genetic susceptibilities activated by environmental exposures, causing inappropriate interactions within many body systems. Dr. Herbert advocates for the use of medical interventions designed to address the dysfunction and support health, combined with appropriate behavioral therapy.

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is the most studied form of behavioral therapy used for people with autism. Studies report early and aggressive one-to-one behavioral intervention produces the best outcomes. ABA programs can teach skills many of us take for granted, determine education required for independence, target an individual’s specific educational and behavioral needs, and reshape problem behaviors. Behavioral programs can be implemented along with medical treatment, providing support through the teaching of additional skills, like pill swallowing, and addressing negative behaviors associated with eating. ABA is a critical component of care and a useful tool to monitor the efficacy of nutritional and medical treatment.

It is our goal at The Johnson Center to support every person we serve so that they achieve their fullest potential. With patients and families receiving individualized care from experienced medical and nutritional clinicians, as well as behavioral specialists, we are able to provide targeted interventions. Our patients often experience positive behavioral changes including increased language, decreased stereotypy, resolution or decrease of aggressive or self-injurious behaviors, and improved focus and attention. And while our researchers, along with others across the globe, search for a cure, we will use the most up-to-date information to ensure that every child we serve has the best chance for a happy, healthy life.