Can you ‘cure’ autism?

1 Feb

The parents of the child that features in this article in today’s Daily Mail certainly think so.

Photography by Jason Bye

Photography by Jason Bye

Jamie, who was found to have a severe form of autism at the age of three, is now in full time mainstream education, scoring at the top of his class and excelling at music.

His parents hope he will go on to A levels, then go to university.

The ABA system (applied behavioural analysis)

ABA is a behaviour modification model is used to modify human behaviors as part of a learning or treatment process. It is said to be a system of positive interventions that changes challenging behaviours enabling the child to conform and fit into society more effectively.

If you google it there are books, courses, papers, research, the list is endless. It seems on the surface to work, although personally I know little about it, or its methods. Here is a YouTube clip of a teacher explaining how it works, and how she uses it in her classroom.

If you look at the article, and the methods used for these children, I would argue that the child has not been CURED, he has been taught a series of behaviours that he would not otherwise know (due to his autism) which has enabled him to access mainstream education and the world around him. Is that not just effective teaching of autistic students?

its not because he is thinking differently, it is because he is being conditioned to it. The autism isn’t going away, he will never do it automatically like I do

This quote is from a parent of a child who also was taught through the ABA model, with less of a marked difference, but some successes nevertheless.

One parent believes that the child will learn to ‘cope’ with the condition but will never get better. I think Temple Grandin would disagree with that comment. Autism is a complex thing, and it affects everyone differently. Learning disabilities affect everyone differently and different children cope with challenges differently, that is just human nature.

Certain behaviours, social rules and things that we just take for granted can be taught to autistic children, which will enable them to cope more easily with their diagnosis. They will never stop being autistic though.

Nothing will change the way they see the world. Their brain is damaged and you can’t change it. If you think your child was cured, they can’t have been autistic in the first place.

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