While there is no known cure for autism, there are treatment and education approaches that can address some of the challenges associated with the condition. Intervention can help to lessen disruptive behaviors, and education can teach self-help skills for greater independence. But just as there is no one symptom or behavior that identifies people with autism, there is no single treatment that will be effective for everyone on the spectrum. Individuals can use the positive aspects of their condition to their benefit, but treatment must begin as early as possible and focus on the individual’s unique strengths, weaknesses and needs.
Throughout the history of the Autism Society, parents and professionals have been confounded by conflicting messages regarding which treatment options are appropriate for children and adults on the autism spectrum. As each person responds to treatment differently, we cannot endorse any one treatment or program. Families should educate themselves about all options and choose what they feel is in the best interest of their child and family, based on their experience and what resources are available.
This section provides an overview of many available approaches, not specific treatment recommendations. Keep in mind that the word “treatment” is used in a very limited sense. While typically used for children under age three, the approaches described here can be included in an educational program for older children as well.
It is important to match a child’s potential and specific needs with treatments or strategies that are likely to help him/her reach established goals and greatest potential. The Autism Society does not want to give the impression that parents or professionals will select just one treatment from a list. A search for appropriate treatment must be paired with the knowledge that all treatment approaches are not equal – what works for one will not work for all. The basis a treatment plan should come from a thorough evaluation of the child’s strengths and weaknesses.
Autism Spectrum Disorders was first documented in 1943 but was thought to be a part of Schizophrenia. It was only
separated as a diagnosis in the 1980s. Autism is thus a relatively new disability and is as such an unknown disability.
Autism is a neuro-developmental disability that affects the way an individual makes sense of the world. Autism affects four
main areas of development: 1. Communication, 2. Social Interaction, 3. Sensory Processing, 4. Rigid and Repetitive
Behaviours. These areas of impairment have a major, pervasive effect of the functioning of individuals with autism.
Autism is a spectrum disorder meaning that the range of functioning varies between each individual on the spectrum. On
one side of the spectrum there are individuals that will need full support for the rest of their lives and on the other side of
the spectrum are individuals who can function in main-stream society despite their areas of impairment.
International prevalence figures in 2012 indicated that 1 in 88 individuals are affected by autism. As the disability
becomes more known, this figure is dramatically increasing (In the US, incidence has increased to 1 in 56, CDC, 2014).
Considering South Africa’s population of over 52 million individuals, we estimate that just under 600 000 individuals in
South Africa have Autism!
These individuals however remain undiagnosed and unsupported, living a life in a world that is overwhelming and
extremely stressful. They remain without support and intervention due to the lack of awareness about Autism in our
country. Autism is not understood and often misperceived to be a cultural punishment or religious affliction. This stigma
results in further isolation and commonly abuse of individuals living with Autism.
At Autism Limpopo, besides lobbying government for services (less than 1% of our children are in any type of educational
facility) we strive to create awareness in our communities, educate those with and those working with Autism and
empower and build capacity in our communities so that Autism is understood and embraced as diversity not a disease. The
awareness, education and capacity building will encourage an inclusive society. By doing this individuals with Autism will
be accepted and abusive situations will be prevented in the future. Individuals with Autism will be afforded the same
opportunities for inclusion, education and employment as every other individual in South Africa.