Atlanta resources for those on the autism spectrum

Stem Cell Research Leads To Possible Autism Breakthrough

A previous version of this story highlighted hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which has faced scrutiny from members of the medical community for insufficient evidence as an effective treatment for autism.

When you have a child with autism, finding help becomes priority No. 1.

Not only is it overwhelming to figure out what your child needs, but locating the right resources can be an added challenge.

» RELATED: 5 things to know about Georgia’s autism law

Fortunately, you'll find some of the most innovative autism treatments and therapies in the country right here in the Atlanta area.

Here are some local resources for those who love someone on the autism spectrum.

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Autism treatment centers

With all the advancements in modern treatments and therapies, an autism diagnosis isn't the end of the world. Utilizing these resources might just give your child a chance to have the most successful and fulfilling life possible.

You can find autism treatment centers around Atlanta that offer many therapeutic options in one location.

In fact, Atlanta's Marcus Autism Center is one of the leading science centers in the country with an outreach of more than 10,000 children. According to Dr. Ami Klin, the center's director, Marcus is both the autism voice of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory School of Medicine in terms of clinical practice.

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Using their core principles to address the three biggest burdens of children on the spectrum—intellectual barriers, behavior challenges or language disabilities—the center identifies, diagnoses, evaluates and treats children based on their specific needs.

Because the center relies solely on science-backed evidence, some common therapies lacking sufficient scientific proof like neurofeedback, hyperbaric chambers, and nutritional therapies are not offered.

However, the center has a behavior treatment clinic, a feeding disorders program, language and learning clinic, sleep clinic and educational outreach program which has trained professionals and school administrators in nearly 20 school districts in the state. The outreach program teaches professionals how to create a culture, climate and curriculum to address the needs of children on the spectrum.

» RELATED: Girls with autism more likely to have younger siblings with autism

Contact these science-backed Atlanta-area autism centers to find out which treatments they offer.

  • Emory Autism Center. 1551 Shoup Court, Decatur, Ga. 30033. 404-727-8350.
  • Marcus Autism Center. 1920 Briarcliff Road, Atlanta, Ga. 30324. 404-785-9350.

Along with the Marcus and Emory autism centers, Dr. Klin also recommends the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Georgia Department of Public Health as major informational sources for parents in the community.

Occupational therapy

Sensory integration issues affect many children with autism. From becoming overwhelmed by the lights or sounds in a grocery store, to the unbearable feeling of tags in shirts, sensory integration dysfunction can make day-to-day tasks exhausting and overwhelming for your little one.

Occupational therapy can support overstimulated and understimulated children by helping to improve motor skills, practicing daily tasks, developing filters to help process the world around them and encouraging social interaction.

The occupational therapy centers around Atlanta work with autistic children to help them gain a new sense of confidence and control.

  • Kids Can Pediatric Occupational Therapy Services. 4939 Lower Roswell Road, Building C, Suite 201, Marietta, Ga. 30068. 770-317-6755.
  • Play Matters. 4641 Roswell Road, Atlanta, Ga. 30342. 404-474-0506.
  • Building Blocks Pediatrics. 1230 Johnson Ferry Place, Suite G-10, Marietta, Ga. 30068. 770-321-6705.
Explore» More general resources for Georgia residents

Neurofeedback as therapy

Neurofeedback involves monitoring your child's brainwave activities through an electroencephalographic (EEG) machine. Painless and safe electrodes are placed on a child's head and the EEG machine relays information to a computer screen as graphs, lines and sometimes even as a simplified video game.

When your child feels either over- or understimulated, the character in the video game will not move. But when a child feels relaxed and focused, the character will successfully move through a maze to reach the end. Other times, the reward could be soothing sounds or pleasant visuals.

This therapy might sound unusual, but regular sessions can help train your child to maintain a focused and relaxed state throughout the day. Because the therapy could involve a video game, children can have a tendency to have fun and even look forward to the experience. Tufts University suggests that this type of treatment has also shown improvement in children with attention issues, like ADHD.

Much of the scientific community, however, says that the findings supporting the use of neurofeedback in autism spectrum disorders are inconclusive.

Dr.Klin calls neurofeedback treatment in autism "pseudoscience."

"Neurofeedback uses a questionable method to collect data about the child's body and supposedly change the way we are treating the child based on that data," he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "It has the appearance of science, technology and medicine, but no validation."

A lot of children on the spectrum have anxiety, he said. And it's possible that meditation and feedback therapy could help with anxiety, but anxiety itself isn't addressed in the core deficits of autism.

Though Klin and other researchers don't condone it, many families claim neurofeedback has provided some relief. If you have questions about neurofeedback, speak with one of these Atlanta-based centers for more information.

In 2015, Georgia passed a new law allowing treatment coverage for children with autism-related disorders. Under the legislation, some children are deemed eligible for up to $30,000 in annual insurance coverage for treatment.

Learn more about Georgia's autism legislation.