A parent with an autistic child may be presented with highly challenging situations and one of them includes choosing the right treatment for their child. Every year there are new treatments claiming to be strongly effective in treating individuals with autism, or professional interpretations and suggestions, anecdotal reports from parents, and drugs and medications asserting to cure autism, yet most lack the scientific accuracy and testing to back its claims. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the only approach with extensive research and has been scientifically proven to be the most effective treatment for children with autism to date. No other treatment has shown to be more effective or has the same scientific rigor as ABA, yet with the growing number of individuals diagnosed, along with restricted access to effective treatments and the broad range of treatments available, families often resort to complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) treatments, biologically-based or not, notwithstanding the absence of supportive scientific statistics and/or presence of contradictory data and warnings from scientists.
It is very important to note whether a treatment has been largely adopted, tested and proven in scientific research and history in determining the outcome of treatment. With that being said, all parents must critically assess and scrutinize all treatment options available, inquire whether there is scientific evidence supporting each treatment's claim of effectiveness, and see what really works. Treatment should be selected based on deliverable progress and results.
The idea of whether a child can recover from the diagnosis of autism remains controversial. In addition, there are also varying opinions on what constitutes recovery. The term “Best Outcome” was first introduced in the seminal research study by Dr Ivar Lovaas. This term was used to describe a group of children that no longer carried the diagnosis when tested by an independent diagnostician, had normal IQ’s, were placed in mainstream classrooms with no supports and were indistinguishable from their peers. Later studies have also used these criteria to define outcome of children in their treatment programs. Subsequent studies have also used the same criteria to define the outcome of children in their treatment programs. There is a possibility that children who reach this best outcome criteria possess some quirks or some mild symptoms that are not recognisable by a layman. These children might go on to live independent and fulfilling lives – attending university, having good careers and even getting married. Regrettably, this term has been largely misused and parents can be misinformed by certain providers to believe that all autistic children will achieve this result with the right kind of treatment or the right doses of medication. However, research on ABA does not concur with this view. Current studies show that just under 50% of children who receive very intensive (30 hours per week) ABA services at a young age will attain this kind of best outcome. Autism Link Malaysia strongly believes that the best outcome is achievable for many children with early intervention. However, we also firmly believe that early intervention can have a profound effect on the quality of lives of these children even if they do not attain the best outcome. Many of the children who do not meet the best outcome can have jobs, relationships, contribute to society and have happy meaningful lives. This is our objective for all the children we treat.