Are there cures for autism? This is a question that sparks debate within the autism community and has a complex answer. The traditional medical community views autism as a medical condition with effective treatment options but no known cure. However, some members of the autism community, from experts and families to people once diagnosed with autism, claim that people are recovering from autism. The definition of cure also varies in terms of successful autism treatment versus a true cure. Learn about the current views on autism cures.
Traditional Medical View of Autism Cures
The traditional medical community generally views autism as a pervasive developmental disorder with no known cause or cure. Despite the fact that no scientifically proven autism cure is documented, the medical community considers autism to be highly responsive to early intervention and the right treatment plan. The view is best summarized by the statement on the Centers for Disease Control and Management (CDC) website: "There is currently no cure for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). However, research shows that early intervention treatment services can greatly improve a child's development."
One of the reasons that autism does not have a known cure is that the cause is unknown. In fact, the complex spectrum of autism and variations of symptoms and levels of impairment lead some experts to believe that autism may possibly have multiple causes. Learning the cause or causes of autism may be the first step to finding possible cures.
Successful Treatment Versus Autism Cure
The concept of curing autism versus treating autism symptoms is also a large part of the autism cure debate. The traditional medical community recognizes that many current autism treatments can significantly improve autism symptoms, even to the point of allowing some individuals with autism to demonstrate little to no symptoms. When an autistic person no longer exhibits many of the symptoms of autism, some members of the autism community claim that the person is cured.
However, many mainstream autism medical experts would insist the person is responding to a successful autism treatment plan and remains autistic. The one rare exception is if a person previously diagnosed with autism no longer fits autism diagnostic criteria under the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) and does requires any autism treatment to remain symptom free.
Existing Cures for Autism Argument
The strongest argument for existing cures for autism are cases when a person formerly diagnosed with autism no longer exhibits any of the symptoms of autism under the DSM-IV-TR. A number of autism cure activist organizations, such as the Autism Research Institute, as well as individuals and families once considered a part of the autism spectrum claim people are recovering from autism in response to certain autism treatments.
It is unknown why some individuals appear to recover from a diagnosis of autism. In these cases, many doctors claim the person was simply misdiagnosed with autism. Other doctors believe that the recovery is the product of a successful intervention and the autism symptoms will eventually return if the person abandons all autism treatment.
Jenny McCarthy and Generation Rescue
One of the most vocal advocates for the existence of autism cures is actress Jenny McCarthy. McCarthy's son, Evan, was diagnosed with autism by age 2. McCarthy found out that her son had a number of food intolerances and responded to a gluten-free, casein-free diet (GFCF diet). She also used behavior therapies such as applied behavioral analysis (ABA), to treat her son. Over the years, he significantly improved in his development, language, behavior and social skills. McCarthy's autism support organization, Generation Rescue, advocates the idea that "autism is reversible" and guides parents on how to find effective autism treatment. She has also written books about her son's autism experience, including recommended treatment plans.
Types of Autism Treatments
The types of autism treatments that many proponents of existing autism give credit for cases of autism recovery include biomedical treatment, chelation therapy, GFCF diets and ABA therapy. Some of the treatments are controversial because some experts question the intervention's safety or ethics. The nutritional value and long-term use safety of GFCF diets has been criticized. Many experts believe chelation therapy, which is a part of many biomedical interventions, is not safe. Some critics of ABA claim that it teaches autistic individuals robotic responses and, in some cases, has a negative impact on the person's self-esteem when dealing with undesirable behavior. While these treatments help many autistic individuals improve, they are still not considered cures by the mainstream medical community.
Cure Issue in the Autism Rights Movement
Some autism rights activists, such as Aspies for Freedom, see autism as an identity and not a medical condition. They fight against research for cures, which they view as discrimination. Instead, they advocate for autism identity acceptance, support services and safe autism treatments that do not detract from the autistic identity to help people in their daily lives.
Hope for Autism
Scientifically proven cures for autism may not yet exist, but there are many effective autism treatments to improve lives. More people with autism than ever before are responding to current treatments and living fulfilling and productive lives. Autism awareness and advocacy has led to increased funding for autism research. There is hope for people with autism and it is growing every day.