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Little Evidence on Value of Treatments for Autism: Report
Date:8/28/2012

TUESDAY, Aug. 28 (HealthDay News) -- There is just not enough evidence to determine whether or not current treatments actually help adolescents and young adults with autism, researchers report.

"Overall, there is very little evidence in all areas of care for adolescents and young adults with autism, and it is urgent that more rigorous studies be developed and conducted," report senior author Melissa McPheeters, director of Vanderbilt University's Evidence-Based Practice Center, said in a university news release.

Her team reviewed 32 studies published between 1980 and 2011 on therapies for people aged 13 to 30 with autism.

They found some evidence that treatments might boost social skills and educational outcomes such as vocabulary and reading, but the studies were generally small and had limited follow-up.

There was little evidence supporting the use of drug therapy for people with autism in these age groups. The most consistent findings showed that antipsychotic medications might lessen problem behaviors such as irritability and aggression. However, harmful side effects linked to these medications included weight gain and sedation.

Only five studies tested interventions involving work skills training for young people with autism. All of the studies suggested that vocational interventions may be effective for some adolescents and young adults with autism, but the studies also had significant flaws that raised questions about their conclusions.

One expert said the paucity of data on this topic is disheartening.

"Only five studies that address vocation skills were published in the last three decades, and all were of poor quality," said Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer at the advocacy group Autism Speaks. However, "the meager evidence that exists suggests that vocational interventions improve rates of employment, reduce autism symptoms, and [improve] quality of life."

She said more and
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