While other treatments are still being investigated, right now the only therapy that has been shown to have a long-term positive affect on autism is called Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention, Mulick said.
EIBI is a highly structured approach to learning, in which children with autism are taught first to imitate their teachers. But this treatment is very time-consuming and labor intensive. It involves one-on-one behavioral treatment with the child for up to 40 hours a week for several years.
“It’s expensive and difficult for many parents to use,” Mulick said. “That’s got to be one reason other treatments look attractive to them.”
Mulick said other treatments and therapies are being studied. However, it takes years to test treatments for autism because of the nature of the disease and problems with proving effectiveness.
“Autism studies are a long, time-consuming, and expensive process,” Mulick said. “And some of the fad treatments being used today would never be approved for testing – they are just too dangerous.”