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Autism Treatment: What Has Changed Over the Years?

Autism Treatment

Autism is a condition that has only really started to be understood by healthcare professionals over the course of the last few years. Before the 1980s and ‘90s, the condition was not truly understood, and its symptoms were attributed to other conditions or misinterpreted.

Thanks to modern healthcare, autistic people are able to lead very normal lives, especially if their conditions are caught at a young age and treated properly.

If you are interested in learning about how autism treatment has changed over the years, then this post will tell you everything that you need to know about it:

Autism Treatment

Autism Timeline

Before moving on and explaining how autism’s perception has changed in the eyes of healthcare providers in recent years, it’s first important to provide a timeline of the condition.

  • 1911 – The term ‘autism’ is used for the first time by Eugen Bleuler to describe the symptoms of schizophrenia.
  • 1920s – Patients suffering from autism are given electroconvulsive therapy to treat their symptoms, which weren’t widely understood at that time. Also in the same decade, dietary restrictions were introduced as a form of treatment for people suffering from autism.
  • 1943 – Autism is first described as an emotional and social disorder, by Dr Leo Kanner. The next year in 1944, Hans Asperger wrote an extensive article on autism, explaining that it was a communication disorder in children.
  • 1950s – The ‘refrigerator mother’ theory was developed, which suggested that cold, uncaring mothers traumatised their children so much that they ‘retreated into autism.’ Also in the 1950s, pancreatectomy was given as a treatment for autism (pancreatectomy meaning the removal of one or both parents from a child’s life).
  • 1970s – The first squeeze machine is developed for children suffering from autism. Additionally, shock therapy and aversive punishment are mainstream treatments for the disorder. Also in the 1970s, auditory integration training is developed, twin studies are produced, and pharmaceutical treatments are developed.
  • 1980s – Autism is divided into categories, including infantile autism, and a lot of research goes into the condition. Various treatments including intensive behavioural therapy are developed.
  • 1990s – Special education programs are created for autistic children.
  • 2000s – The condition becomes widely understood and is no longer stigmatised. Some very effective treatments are developed and autistic children are able to live normal lives into adulthood. The autism spectrum is also created, which makes identifying specific types of autism much easier.

Better Understanding

Autism is a condition that’s a lot better understood nowadays. Before autism’s recognition among healthcare professionals, doctors tended to believe that autistic people’s behavioural issues were peculiarities rather than symptoms of a health condition. A lot of research was conducted in the 1990s, which led to healthcare professionals giving autism the recognition that it deserves. Throughout the 2000s autism was extensively researched and eventually, the condition came to be understood the way that it is today. Healthcare professionals didn’t just research the condition and its symptoms, they also researched effective treatments, which are used to this day.

Behavioural Therapies

One of the main treatments for autism is behavioural therapy. In particular, ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis) is a very popular form of treatment for autistic people. Unfortunately, you might have heard about the controversy around ABA therapy, because some people say that it is very cruel. Whether or not you agree with this, one thing that’s undeniable is that it helps autistic people to function normally. If you have an autistic child, then it’s worth exploring all of the different types of behavioural therapies available to you, so that you can make the best decision regarding your child’s treatment.

Different Types of Autism

In the past, healthcare professionals believed that there were four distinct subtypes of autism. Now, however, the medical community believes that there is only one broad category of autism, with three different levels specifying the amount of support and treatment that a patient requires. Before 2013, doctors believed that the four types were: autism spectrum disorder (ASD), childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder, and Asperger’s syndrome. These terms are no longer used by the medical community since it’s no longer believed that autism can be broken down into four distinct categories. The three treatment levels that currently exist work quite well.

Early Symptoms of Autism

As autism is often diagnosed early on in a child’s life, it’s good to know what the early symptoms are. Healthcare professionals state that they are:

  • An inability to keep or maintain eye contact
  • Not enjoying the company of others, nor objects, or activities
  • Not responding to an adult’s attempts at gaining their attention
  • Find it challenging to go back and forth with an adult, in conversation
  • Being sensitive to specific senses
  • The constant repetition of words, behaviours, or phrases
  • A very narrow interest in things
  • An inability to sleep through the night
  • Becoming very distressed when their routine changes

Autism Treatment

The Strengths of Autism

A lot of people only ever seem to look at the challenges faced by autism, failing to appreciate the fact that autistic people have a lot of strengths. For example, it’s well known that some autistic people have an incredible memory for facts and figures, specialist knowledge in topics of interest, high levels of motivation for activities that they are interested in, innovative approaches to problems, and a keen eye for detail (making them, especially good problem solvers).

How Does Autism Impact A Person’s Life?

There’s certainly one thing that’s not changed about autism over the years, and that’s how the condition impacts people’s lives. People who suffer from autism generally have trouble communicating and interacting with others, have difficulty functioning in more than one area of their life, and exhibit repetitive behaviours. With novel new treatments like Cannabis, however, it’s very easy for autistic people to live ordinary lives now.

The symptoms of autism typically appear within a child’s first two years of life. It’s significantly more common in boys than girls, though it does also affect girls. The main symptoms of autism are an inability to communicate socially and repetitive behavioural patterns. These are the two symptoms most commonly exhibited by young children, leading to their diagnosis.

Autism is a condition that’s widely understood now, although there are still many misconceptions about it outside of the medical community. Significant changes have been made in the way that autistic people are treated over the last few decades. Now, they are able to live independent and self-sustaining lives, and their condition isn’t stigmatized.

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