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The best treatment for autism is early, intense, structured and interactive instruction provided by well-trained teachers. But children spend most of their waking hours at home. In order to be effective, any treatment regimen must rely on “special parenting” by informed parents.

Most children learn as a result of natural curiosity and desire for praise. When these are absent, normal learning gets derailed. Early research suggested that tangible rewards could help get children with autism back on track. Some educators and parents have sought curricula more centered on the child and his development.

In the hands of a knowledgeable child psychiatrist, pediatrician or child neurologist, medication can play an important role in an overall treatment plan. One or two medicines at a time is the usual standard of practice. There is no single medication that every child with autism should take. All have side effects.

Alternative treatments for autism have proliferated. But if they sound too good to be true, they probably are. They should not be trusted blindly, but promising alternative treatments should be studied empirically.