Can you be cured of autism?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for autism just yet. It’s an incredibly complex condition, and one that requires ongoing support.

5 MIN READ

Can autism be cured?

Autism is a complex illness that poses many challenges. Some children improve quickly and become independent, while others struggle throughout their childhoods. However, new research suggests that treatment may be more effective than we previously thought. The “cure” of autism has long been a popular topic in the media, with reports suggesting that it can be treated through a variety of different methods. Even parents who are not hopeful about the future for their child may have heard friends or family mention someone they know who was able to get over the condition through intensive therapy.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for autism just yet. It’s an incredibly complex condition, and one that requires ongoing support from everyone involved as well as close monitoring by professional carers throughout childhood. Here we explain what cured means when it comes to this diagnosis and possible treatments for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Why is there no cure for autism?

The term “cured” is often used when people talk about individuals with autism. They are referring to the fact that the individual has managed to overcome the challenges that come with this diagnosis and make progress in their lives. In this sense, they are not cured, just of some of the symptoms that come with it. For example, an individual may be able to attend a mainstream school without any issues as a result of intensive therapy.

I don't particularly like the term cure.  Even for diseases such as cancer, cure can be misleading.  For example, a person may have had treatment for cancer, then have confirmation scans to show that the cancer mass is no longer there, just to have the cancer come back six years later somewhere else.  Does this mean the cancer was cured, or just the most obvious symptom disappeared for a time?

Another reason I don't like using the word cure is that it's not allowed to be used to describe a medical condition going away, unless government approved treatments were used.  Our medical industry has too much control on what choices we can make for our own bodies, as well as control over what we are allowed to say regarding health.  This control has extended to autism, such that it's defined as incurable.  There isn't a medicine that's approved and shown to cure autism, therefore it can't be cured.

Even if it could be cured by addressing the root cause, there would be remaining symptoms of autism that need support.  For example, let's say Jared is a child with an autism diagnosis.  When Jared was 10 years old, he took part in a treatment protocol based on research to verify if it could cure his autism.  The treatment cured the root cause, however he missed developmental milestones earlier in his life.  He hasn't developed social skills, hasn't developed skills in expressing empathy and never really learned English skills.  He still ticks some boxes that meet the criteria for autism.  This means that he still has ASD, even though the treatment worked.  He will still need help to develop any skills that have been delayed, and he would like to improve on.

Autism isn't really a disease anyway (at least in most cases).  Many people with an autism diagnosis don't really need anything fixed.  They have differences that the majority of people, and may have challenges that mean it's hard for them to seem what we have defined as normal.  Normal does not mean right or perfect.  Normal just means you have learned how to be similar to others.  An autistic child may have skills that he and his parents would like to work on, but so do us all.  He may even have some brain fog and need support to improve health, as is the case with many adults.  It's just that the brain fog and symptoms of poor health may have appeared earlier.

The aim should not be to cure autism, but rather improve the quality of life of the person.

I believe that if there are early signs of autism, support should start as soon as possible.  The support should include a wider range of strategies than the current standard approach.  It is important for parents or carers to recognise early signs of ASD in order to provide support before the condition becomes more challenging.  Parents should remember that behaviours aren't the result of a the child just being a naughty kid.  Children don't want to be naughty.  There is always a reason for a behaviour, even if it's being judged as bad.  It's up to us to find the reason.

Research into treatment for autism

There is no cure for autism, but there are treatments that can help. Treatment options are geared towards helping people with autism in the areas of mental health, educational support, and communication skills. There are a number of different therapies for this disorder, including Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and play therapy. The diagnosis of ASD often comes with severe social limitations and challenges. The symptoms can be difficult to manage by themselves and need to be treated accordingly. However, these therapies show promise in treating the core symptoms of ASD as well as its accompanying conditions such as anxiety or depression. In fact, research has shown that CBT significantly reduces anxiety disorders in children with autism spectrum disorder. If you are thinking about whether you have autism, it’s important to understand that there is no definitive way to diagnose it. This means that nobody knows what causes autism or how it will impact individuals who have it moving forward. There is a lot of information out there about possible treatments for those who do have ASD and their family members should take note of any treatment options available to them if they’re considering treatment for themselves or someone else with this condition.

Some parents may choose to use natural methods such as diet changes or alternative medicines in order to help their child improve their symptoms without using medication or other medical approaches that may come along with side effects.  These approaches will need to be used in conjunction with other more researched therapies mentioned above.

There's some research into genes that contribute to autism.  I don't expect there will be an autism gene that scientists identify and devise a targeted treatment.  We know that certain genes that don't work well to produce the protein that they're supposed to in autistic people.  Supporting those altered genes is one strategy used by doctors, which usually involves testing and nutrients to compensate for the impaired gene.

Focus on therapies and treatments, not cures.

Every person living and breathing is changing.  Hopefully, with most of us, for the better.  An Olympian trains, eats well, employs a coach and explores new ways to get that 1% better.  An executive at a company goes to the gym to stay fit, takes supplements, eats well, meditates and learns from others so that she performs well for her company.  In our own way, we are all learning and improving.  Not because we have a disorder, or we have something to be cured, but because we want certain things out of life.  It's the same with autism spectrum disorder. We are supporting people to get more of what they want out of life.

For autism, we use the help of experts to find out which therapies we would like to try, then we use them to help our children or adults with autism overcome their challenges.  So if a child struggles with social interaction, we may organise some speech therapy or another therapy to directly support them with language skills and conversation.  We aren't curing anything, but just like everyone else, we are helping them learn, grow and overcome challenges.

Therapies should be supportive.  They should not be designed to intimidate a person into doing what's considered normal.  Rewards and consequences are often used by parents and teachers to get the child to do what we want.  I recommend minimising rewards and consequences.  In many children with autism, they can make the situation much worse.  Children want to improve and do the right thing.  It's better to inspire them to do what's best.

More about natural treatments for autism from our blog.

Author

Warren Gouin
Warren Gouin

I'm a parent of a child that was diagnosed with autism. I'm an engineer and scientist with most of my career in the diagnostic pathology industry. I'm passionate about improve health and I want to help other parents of children with autism.

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