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Autism: History, Cause and Commonly Used Treatments

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects social communication, behavior, and sensory processing. Individuals with autism may have difficulty with social interactions, verbal and nonverbal communication, repetitive behaviors, and sensory sensitivities.

It is often referred to as a spectrum disorder, which means that individuals with autism can have a wide range of symptoms and levels of impairment. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a term that encompasses a range of conditions, including classic autism, Asperger's syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).


The history of autism dates back to the early 20th century, when the term "autism" was first used by Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler in 1911 to describe a symptom of schizophrenia. The term was later used by Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger in the 1940s to describe a group of children with social difficulties and stereotyped behaviors. However, it was not until the 1980s that the diagnosis of autism began to be more widely recognized and standardized.


Currently, the exact cause of autism is still not fully understood, although it is believed to involve a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and neurological factors. As a result, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating autism, and a variety of methods may be used depending on the individual needs of each person with autism.


  • Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA): ABA is a behavior-based therapy that uses positive reinforcement to increase desirable behaviors and decrease undesirable ones. It has been shown to be effective in improving language, social, and academic skills in children with autism. (1)

  • Occupational therapy: This type of therapy focuses on improving a person's ability to perform daily living tasks, such as eating, dressing, and grooming, as well as developing fine motor skills and sensory integration. (2)

  • Speech therapy: Speech therapy can help individuals with autism improve their communication skills, including both verbal and nonverbal communication. (3)

  • Medications: Certain medications, such as antipsychotics and antidepressants, may be used to treat specific symptoms of autism, such as anxiety or aggression. However, medication should always be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional. (4)

It is important to note that not all treatments for autism are evidence-based, and some may even be harmful. For example, there is no scientific evidence to support the use of chelation therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or other alternative treatments for autism.

Overall, the most effective approach to treating autism is a comprehensive, individualized plan that addresses the unique needs and challenges of each person with autism. This may involve a combination of therapies, medications, and other interventions, as well as ongoing support and education for both the individual with autism and their family.

Here are some sources that provide more information on autism:

  • American Psychiatric Association - Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.) (DSM 5 TR). doi: 10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596

This is the official diagnostic manual used by mental health professionals to diagnose autism and other mental health conditions. The manual provides detailed diagnostic criteria and descriptions of the disorder.

This website provides information on autism, including the signs and symptoms of the disorder, diagnosis, and treatment options. It also provides information on ongoing research and clinical trials related to autism.

This website provides information on autism, including prevalence rates, risk factors, and early signs of the disorder. The website also provides information on resources and support services for individuals with autism and their families.


  • National Autism Center. (2015). Findings and conclusions: National standards project, phase 2. Randolph, MA: National Autism Center.

  • American Occupational Therapy Association. (2018). Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain and process (3rd ed.). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 72(Suppl. 1), 1–48.

  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2016). Treatment of communication disorders in children with autism spectrum disorders: Practice guidelines. ASHA.

  • Ching H, Pringsheim T. Aripiprazole for autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;5:CD009043.


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