Is There Reason for Hope?
When parents learn that their child is autistic, most wish they could
magically make the problem go away. They looked forward to having
a baby and watching their child learn and grow. Instead, they
must face the fact that they have a child who may not live up
to their dreams and will daily challenge their patience. Some
families deny the problem or fantasize about an instant cure.
They may take the child from one specialist to another, hoping for
a different diagnosis. It is important for the family to eventually
overcome their pain and deal with the problem, while still cherishing
hopes for their child's future. Most families realize that their lives
can move on.
Today, more than ever before, people with autism can be helped. A
combination of early intervention, special education, family support,
and in some cases, medication, is helping increasing numbers of children
with autism to live more normal lives. Special interventions and education
programs can expand their capacity to learn, communicate, and relate
to others, while reducing the severity and frequency of disruptive behaviors.
Medications can be used to help alleviate certain symptoms. Older children
and adults like Paul may also benefit from the treatments that are available
today. So, while no cure is in sight, it is possible to greatly improve
the day-to-day life of children and adults with autism.
Today, a child who receives effective therapy and education has every
hope of using his or her unique capacity to learn. Even some who are
seriously mentally retarded can often master many self-help skills like
cooking, dressing, doing laundry, and handling money. For such children,
greater independence and self-care may be the primary training goals.
Other youngsters may go on to learn basic academic skills, like reading,
writing, and simple math. Many complete high school. Some, like Temple
Grandin, may even earn college degrees. Like anyone else, their personal
interests provide strong incentives to learn. Clearly, an important
factor in developing a child's long-term potential for independence
and success is early intervention. The sooner a child begins to receive
help, the more opportunity for learning. Furthermore, because a young
child's brain is still forming, scientists believe that early intervention
gives children the best chance of developing their full potential. Even
so, no matter when the child is diagnosed, it's never too late to begin
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