Many people wonder if there is a cure for autism.
Currently, autism cannot be cured. As a complex neurodevelopmental disorder, it’s important to recognize that autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning it affects individuals differently and has a wide range of symptoms.
That said, even some individuals with more significant challenges from their deficits can achieve a better quality of life with proper support and clinical intervention.
Additionally, it is important to understand that while autism is considered a lifelong condition, it is possible for symptoms to improve. Early intervention and treatment play a crucial role in supporting individuals with autism. [i]
At the Drake Institute, we use advanced treatment technologies to develop personalized treatment plans for individuals with autism. Our approach involves using brain map-guided neurofeedback and neurostimulation to help our patients reduce their symptoms, improve functioning, and achieve a better quality of life.
In fact, we’ve treated some higher-functioning autistic patients that by the conclusion of their treatment program no longer meet diagnostic criteria for an autism spectrum disorder.
If you’d like to learn more about our treatment for ASD, please call us at 800-700-4233 or fill out the consultation form.
Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that ranges from mild to severe and includes repetitive behaviors, impaired social communication, restricted interests, and rigidity.
The exact causes of autism are not currently understood completely, but it is likely to be caused by various genetic and environmental factors.
Certain gene changes may increase the risk of developing autism. Additionally, a family history of ASD indicates a higher risk of having it.
Environmental factors, such as prenatal exposures to toxins and infections, and complications during pregnancy or childbirth, may also contribute to the development of autism. [ii]
Because autism is a spectrum disorder, it affects individuals to varying degrees. Some individuals may require only minimal support to lead a satisfying life, while others may need assistance with daily self-care.
There are three levels of autism that indicate how much support is needed:
Level 1 autism is often referred to as “requiring support” and is the mildest form of autism. Individuals with Level 1 exhibit noticeable impairments in understanding social conventions and regulating their emotions. Additionally, they may exhibit behavioral rigidity and inflexibility. [iii]
Level 2 autism, or “requiring substantial support,” represents a moderate level of impairment on the autism spectrum. These individuals may face similar issues as those in level 1 but to a greater degree.
Autistic individuals in this category may display noticeable distress when dealing with change, use fewer words or noticeably different speech than their peers, and miss nonverbal communication cues like facial expressions. [iv]
Level 3 autism, known as “requiring very substantial support,” represents the most severe level of impairment on the autism spectrum. Challenges faced by these individuals in the areas of social interaction, communication, and behavior require a much higher amount of support. [v]
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by a wide range of signs and symptoms that can vary from person to person.
In general, early signs of autism can be observed in children during their developmental years. These signs may include challenges in social interaction, communication difficulties, and repetitive or restricted patterns of behavior.
The most common early signs and symptoms of autism are listed here: [vi]
As noted above, signs and symptoms of autism typically appear in early childhood. Some symptoms may be noted as early as 12 months old. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder, so it appears while the brain is still developing. While adolescents and adults can also be diagnosed with ASD, it is more likely that symptoms were missed in childhood. [vii]
While the exact causes of autism aren’t fully understood, research suggests that there is a genetic component to its development. In fact, gene changes have been identified as increasing the risk of developing the disorder. Additionally, individuals with autistic family members are more likely to have the condition as well.
The genetic risk is complex and likely involves multiple genes. The risk of developing autism can also be impacted by environmental factors as well.[viii]
Can you get rid of autism with or without treatment as you age?
Autism is thought of as a lifelong condition that persists throughout adulthood, but certain symptoms can diminish with clinical intervention.
Keep in mind that the trajectory of the condition looks different for everyone. Some symptoms may improve over time, even in severely affected individuals.
The symptoms of autism spectrum disorder can change over time. These changes will vary from person to person, with some experiencing noticeable improvements while others may only show minimal improvement. Early intervention and treatment are key to improving symptoms.
The understanding and identification of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) continues to evolve, leading to changes in autism statistics. According to data from 2023, the prevalence of autism in the United States is estimated to be around 1 in 36 children diagnosed with ASD.
According to the CDC, boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls; however, this data may be skewed due to girls being better at “masking” their symptoms than their male counterparts. [ix] [x]
The increase in autism rates in the United States over recent years has sparked interest and raised questions about the factors contributing to this rise. The observed increase in autism rates can be attributed to a combination of factors, including improved awareness, changes in diagnostic criteria, and increased access to diagnostic services.
As public awareness about autism has grown, healthcare professionals and educators have become more adept at recognizing the signs and symptoms of an autism spectrum disorder. This increased awareness has led to more accurate diagnoses and a higher number of individuals being identified as on the autism spectrum and earlier clinical intervention.
The criteria for diagnosing autism have also expanded over time, encompassing a broader spectrum of symptoms and levels of functioning. This expansion allows for the inclusion of individuals who may have previously gone undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions. As a result, more individuals who meet the updated criteria are now being diagnosed with autism.
Increased access to diagnostic services has also contributed to the rise in autism rates. [xi]
Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by a wide range of symptoms and challenges.
Conventional clinical practice suggests that autism is not curable and cannot be reversed. Autism is considered a lifelong condition that typically manifests in early childhood and continues into adulthood.
However, the Drake Institute has successfully treated some patients on the autism spectrum that no longer meet the criteria for a diagnosis of ASD by the conclusion of their treatment.
Autism is diagnosed using a three-step process.
The first step is developmental monitoring. In this phase, parents, teachers, and other caregivers actively monitor the child to ensure they are meeting developmental milestones, such as making eye contact, responding to their name, and mimicking gestures. If it appears that the child isn’t quite meeting milestones, a developmental screening may be requested.
These screenings can be performed on request, but they are also part of standard well-child visits at certain ages. During the screening, a clinical practitioner may assess to see if there are any communication or other deficits characteristic of ASD.
If it appears likely that the child has these deficits, then a diagnostics evaluation will be recommended. [xii]
Over the last 40 years, the Drake Institute has clinically pioneered the use of advanced treatment technologies to treat a variety of brain-based medical disorders such as ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, PTSD, anxiety, panic disorder, depression, insomnia, and more. Using a combination of brain map-guided neurofeedback and sometimes neurostimulation, our Medical Director creates customized treatment protocols to address each patient's needs.
To develop our individualized treatment plans, we first complete a qEEG brain map analysis for each patient. Brain mapping helps us identify which specific regions or networks of the brain are dysregulated linked to symptoms.
To collect this data, 19 sensors are placed around the scalp in areas of the brain responsible for language, focus, memory, executive functioning, social/emotional understanding, and behavioral/emotional regulation. The 19 sensors measure and record brainwave activity that is processed through a normative database of neurotypical individuals.
When we compare the patient's results with those of neurotypical individuals, we can identify regions or networks of the brain that are dysregulated and causing symptoms. This information also allows us to determine how these areas are dysregulated so that we can develop specific treatment protocols that help improve brain functioning and reduce symptoms.
During neurofeedback training/treatment, sensors are once again placed on the scalp. The sensors record and display instantaneous brainwave activity visually in real-time on a computer screen with simultaneous auditory feedback as well.
During neurofeedback sessions, the patient is seeing the results of how their brain is working and with this information, they learn to improve their brainwave activity by guiding it toward healthier, more appropriately functional brainwave patterns.
We do not administer any drugs or perform invasive procedures during this process. Instead, the patient is improving their own brain functioning, guided by visual and auditory feedback.
As an adjunct to neurofeedback, we may also use neurostimulation guided by qEEG brain map findings to gently stimulate the brain into healthier functional patterns. In our experience, some patients may benefit even more from neurofeedback if we also use neurostimulation. We have found this particularly helpful for lower-functioning children on the Autism Spectrum.
In the last forty years, Drake has helped thousands of patients with various disorders such as autism, ADHD, PTSD, anxiety, panic disorder, depression, insomnia, migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and hypertension reduce or resolve their symptoms and thereby achieve a better quality of life. Call us at 1-800-700-4233 or fill out the free consultation form to get started.
If you or a family member need help, please fill out our confidential online form
Interview with Dr. David Velkoff
Interview with Dr. David Velkoff
Spanish News Feature
“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”