Top 10 Therapies and Treatments for Autism

As you start to dig deeply into the literature on autism treatments, you'll find dozens of available options. Which are the "best" treatments? As the professionals will tell you over and over again, every child's needs are different. The treatments described in this article are among the best known, best researched, and most likely to produce positive results.

1
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)

picture card
picture card. Erik Dreyer

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)is the oldest and most fully researched treatment specifically developed for autism. ABA is a very intensive system of reward-based training which focuses on teaching particular skills. If any autism-specific therapy is offered by your school and/or covered by your insurance, this will probably be the one. More »

2
Speech Therapy

Almost all people with autism have issues with speech and language. Sometimes these issues are obvious; many people with autism are non-verbal or use speech very poorly. Sometimes the issues relate not to articulation or grammar but to "speech pragmatics" (the use of speech to build social relationships). Across the board, though, speech and language therapy is likely to be helpful for people with autism. More »

3
Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy focuses on building daily living skills. Since many people with autism have delays in fine motor skills, occupational therapy can be very important. Occupational therapists may also be able to help your child learn important play skills, often a key to successful inclusion in the early grades. More »

4
Social Skills Therapy

One of autism's "core deficits" is a lack of social and communication skills. Many children with autism need help in building the skills they need to hold a conversation, connect with a new friend, or even navigate the playground. Social skills therapists can help out setting up and facilitating peer-based social interaction. More »

5
Physical Therapy

Autism is a "pervasive developmental delay." Many autistic people have gross motor delays, and some have low muscle tone (they're unusually weak). Physical therapy can build up strength, coordination, and basic sports skills. More »

6
Play Therapy

Strange as it may sound, children with autism need help learning to play. And play can also serve as a tool for building speech, communication, and social skills. Play therapists may have training in particular therapeutic techniques such as Floortime or The Play Project - or they may incorporate play therapy into speech, occupational or physical therapy. More »

7
Behavior Therapy

Children with autism are often frustrated. They are misunderstood, have a tough time communicating their needs, suffer from hypersensitivities to sound, light and touch ... no wonder they sometimes act out! Behavior therapists are trained to figure out just what lies behind negative behaviors, and to recommend changes to the environment and routines to improve behavior. More »

8
Developmental Therapies

Floortime, SCERTS, and Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) are all considered to be "developmental treatments." This means that they build from a child's own interests, strengths and developmental level to increase emotional, social and intellectual abilities. Developmental therapies are often contrasted to behavioral therapies, which are best used to teach specific skills such as shoe tying, tooth brushing, etc. More »

9
Visually-Based Therapies

Many people with autism are visual thinkers. Some do very well with picture-based communication systems such as PECS (Picture Exchange Communication). Video modeling, video games and electronic communication systems also tap into autistic people's visual strength to build skills and communication. More »

10
Sensory Integration Therapy and Autism

Once considered a minor offshoot of occupational therapy, sensory integration therapy is now coming into its own. That's in part because new diagnostic criteria for autism specifically include hyper- and/or hypo-sensitivity to light, sound, heat, crowds, smells, and other sensory input. Sensory Integration specialists help people with autism to manage their own responses to sensory input -- usually through physical activities including swinging, brushing, and other elements of a "sensory diet." More »

Before You Choose

It's important for you to choose a therapeutic approach that's affordable, accessible, risk-free, and -- ideally -- in keeping with your parenting philosophy. While other parents, teachers, and therapists may have suggestions, remember that the decision is yours.

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