Treating Adolescents with Autism Not Always Effective

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Therapies used to treat adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have not been shown to be effective, according to a new research study completed at Vanderbilt University. Overall, there is no single treatment for autism. Treatments for autism are usually symptomatic, based on the struggles of each individual, for example, some children with autism may need speech therapy, occupational therapy or medication for defiant behaviors.


    Early intervention services, where autism is identified before the age of 3 and therapies are begun at that time, have been found to be beneficial. Early intervention services often include occupational therapy to help with sensory issues, communication and social skills training, speech and language therapy and physical therapy to help with motor skills development. Again, because each child is different, which services are provided would be based on your child’s specific needs. But for many children, especially those with Asperger’s syndrome or considered high functioning, early intervention services may not occur because a diagnosis doesn’t always happen before the age of three.

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    The same types of therapies are used in both children and adults with ASD, but, according to the recent study, there is no evidence to show that they work for adolescents and adults. Over 4,500 studies were reviewed for treatments for patients between the ages of 13 and 30. Some of the results of the research include:

    • A small number of studies reviewed showed improvement in social skills and educational performance when therapies targeted these areas
    • Antipsychotic medications were found to help reduce aggressive and irritable behaviors
    • Vocational interventions may be helpful for some individuals with ASD

    Other medical interventions did not seem to have supporting evidence to show effectiveness in teens and adults.


    Julie Lounds Taylor, Ph.D., assistant professor of Pediatrics and Special Education stressed the urgency of completing more studies to find out which interventions would be most effective in treating teens and adults with ASD, “With more and more youth with autism leaving high school and entering the adult world, there is urgent need for evidence-based interventions that can improve their quality of life and functioning.”


    The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 1 in every 88 children has been identified as having an ASD. Boys are diagnosed more often than girls, with 1 in every 54 boys diagnosed and 1 in every 252 girls diagnosed.


    For more information on interventions for ASD:


    Picking Behavioral Treatments and Occupational, Speech, or Vision Therapies


    Picking Drugs and Medical Treatments

    Picking Biomedical and Dietary Treatments for Autism

    Teens with Autism: Helping Your Teen with Social Skills

    The Benefits of Exercise for Children with Autism and Asperger's Syndrome





    “Autism Spectrum Disorders: Data & Statistics,” Reviewed 2012, March 29, Staff Writer, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


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    “Autism Treatment Options for Adolescents Are Not Supported by Evidence,” 2012, Aug 27, Christine Kearney, Medical News Today



Published On: September 03, 2012