Most experts agree that there is no way to cure autism. However, Matthew Gallagher's experience shows that with the right therapy (at the right time), a child can be freed of almost all the signs and symptoms of autism. 

My autistic son was almost completely non-verbal at age four. Three years later, he is indistinguishable from his peer group. I know that through a combination of early intervention speech and language therapy and applied behaviour analysis, it is possible for children with autism to become indistinguishable from their neurotypical peers. That is something worth pursuing, because autistic adults are less likely to be employed, have successful relationships or even to live independently.

My experience is very different from the common perception – which robs parents of hope as well as taking pressure off health services to 'cure' autism – that the condition must be accepted and managed, not addressed and treated. This isn't to say that acceptance of neurodiversity isn't important, or that individuals on the autistic spectrum do not have a particular way of viewing the world that should be respected and cherished. However, autism severely limits life chances, and when therapies to reduce its negative effects exist, we should be making sure every child is as lucky as my son.

I am fortunate that I had the resources to put my son in 40 hours per week of specialist therapy almost as soon as he was diagnosed. Most parents do not, and have to wait years to get specialist treatment – or even a diagnosis – through the regular healthcare system. This means that their children miss out on crucial developmental stages, and by the time the help arrives, it is often too late.

The first thing I did when my son was diagnosed, like many parents, was google 'is autism curable". The first result was clear: 'Most experts agree there is no way to cure autism'.

I would debate whether autism needs to be 'cured' in the first place. Whilst the symptoms of autism can make everyday life and relationships harder, it is also positively correlated with savant syndrome, a condition whereby people develop an extremely prodigious talent in one narrow field. Rather, it is a condition that needs to be carefully managed to maximise its upsides and minimise its downsides.

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In 1987, the psychologist Ole Ivar Lovaas reported that half of all children who were treated for at least 40 hours a week with applied behaviour analysis, or ABA, would become indistinguishable from neurotypical children by the time they reached first grade. These findings are strikingly reminiscent of my own experiences. But too many families have been told that this is impossible.

In 2013, a study led by the clinical psychologist Deborah Fein again challenged the orthodoxy that autism was a fixed, lifelong condition. Of a sample of 34 individuals who had 'grown out' of autism, 40 per cent had received early intervention therapy, compared with the four per cent amongst those who did not 'outgrow' autism.

This paints a bleak picture for those children with autism whose parents do not have the funds to pay for immediate intensive early-intervention therapy.

In the US, an effective autism diagnosis is often a prerequisite for children to access publicly funded services. Even though the recommended maximum wait time between referral and diagnosis is five months, a study found that in reality the average wait time could be between two and four years.

Two to four years later, it is often too late. Given the rate at which children's brains develop and their social skills and roles are formed, fast action is essential. We simply cannot deny the impact that untreated autism can have on one's long-term life chances. One study of individuals in their twenties with autism in the USA found that only 17 per cent of young adults with autism were likely to have ever lived on their own, and were even less likely to have a job. Even when they did have a job, they would earn less than their neurotypical peers.

A non-profit I work with, Autism Speaks, takes action to increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism and advance research into both the causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions. I believe this work is essential. It may be fashionable to intellectualise about neurodiversity and whether autism can be an advantage in certain careers (cryptography, coding, etc) but in the real world it is a severe disadvantage for the vast majority.

By denying individuals early intervention for autism, we are preventing many from achieving their full potential. That is why we need more funding for early autism intervention. It is not cheap, but when you factor in the loss of economic activity and increased reliance on public services that untreated autism often creates in adult life, I believe it is one of the best investments we can make.

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