Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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Understanding autism

Week 5: Addressing challenges: approaches to intervention


This week opens by considering the goal, sought by some people and vehemently rejected by others, of a ‘cure’ for autism. Interventions, the main focus of this week, are presented not as ‘cures’, but as procedures to help autistic people overcome challenges in order to promote development and quality of life. The framework for evaluating interventions in relation to evidence is explained. A small selection of key interventions are outlined, including some recent developments in the field.

Now watch the following video in which Dr Ilona Roth introduces this week’s work.

Download this video clip.Video player: boc_aut_1_video_week5_intro.mp4
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This week, you'll be looking at interventions-- methods to help autistic children and adults and their families overcome challenges that undermine development and quality of life. Some people with autism, especially more able individuals, are uncomfortable with the idea that they need help. And it's important to recognise this viewpoint. However, for many individuals and families, finding effective interventions is crucial.
You'll look at some recent work on optimal outcomes. The finding that early intensive intervention may help a small proportion of individuals to outgrow their autistic symptoms. It's interesting that even this apparently promising finding invokes debate. For instance, you'll hear Alex explaining that his autism is an important part of his identity that he wouldn't want to lose. Unfortunately, the autism field has been periodically afflicted by misleading claims for miracle treatments. And some children have suffered harm from these approaches.
But how can we decide what really works? You'll been reflecting on the principles involved in evaluating interventions and then considering the pros and cons of a range of them. I find the ongoing developments in interventions for autism encouraging. Towards the end of this week, you'll read about some recent approaches, including a programme for parents to help develop their children's communication skills and a number of promising IT based apps and tools. You'll hear again about Iris Grace whom you've encountered earlier in the course. She apparently progressed a lot when Tula, a Maine Coon cat joined the family. Consider her mother Arabella's arguments for animal assisted interventions in light of what you've learned during this week.
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By the end of this week you should be able to:

  • appreciate contrasting views on ‘curing’ autism
  • understand what is meant by ‘intervention’
  • appreciate the importance of interventions being evidence-based
  • understand broad principles for evaluating interventions
  • be familiar with key interventions and recent developments in the field.

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