New News on Autism Treatments: What Works, What Doesn't

Moms of kids with autism usually try everything under the sun -- from medications to diets to behavioral therapies -- to help their kids. But there's new guidance in the world of autism treatment: A report in the most recent issue of Pediatrics says that while medications can be a mixed bag, behavioral interventions can help -- a lot.
Researchers at Vanderbilt University reviewed the evidence behind drugs,  injections of the hormone secretin, and behavioral therapies. What they found: Antidepressants (such as Prozac) and stimulants (such as Ritalin) don’t help autistic children and neither does secretin. And while the anti-psychotic drugs risperidone and aripiprazole decreased kids’ hyperactivity and irritability, they also caused serious side effects, such as weight gain and sedation.

On the other hand, children who received intense behavioral intervention -- working one-on-one with a therapist at least 25 hours a week -- made moderate to huge improvements in their IQ, language, and social skills. Since kids on the autism spectrum vary widely in their abilities, there's hardly a one-size-fits-all approach and the report looked at studies of several methods. Experts generally agree, however, that the earlier a child can get therapy, the better.

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