The range of therapies currently used to treat autism are as varied as the spectrum itself. As no two children diagnosed with autism are alike, the effectiveness of a particular type of therapy or combination of therapies will also vary. On this page, you will find a wide range of science-based “traditional” therapeutic interventions. Once you’ve chosen the type of therapy you’d like your child to engage in, we also give a “cheat sheet” for choosing the right provider.
While a diagnosis often gives insight into why a child is encountering certain challenges, it is our experience and belief that each child is unique and responds in their own way. Therefore, it is our approach to treat each child’s specific issues rather than give “cookie cutter” strategies based on their diagnosis. Our goal is to help you become fully educated about the many options so that you may make the best choice for your child(ren).
Therapies…The Choosing Game
Finding a the right type of therapy is one of the most difficult tasks. After all, this person or group is going to work with your child, will become an essential component to your child’s program, and ultimately their success.
The ultimate question, “Do you have a provider?”
If you’re able to answer yes, you’re already ahead of the game. However, the reality is, this could be a “yes and no” answer. If you have a provider, are they state or private-funded? Are you getting all the hours you need? Is this person or group really understanding your child and making a positive impact? It is our hope that the answers to the following questions will help you find a provider.
What is a provider?
The answer depends on your definition of a “provider.” Some states offer services through their division of Developmental Disabilities. These services can be through the form of independently contracted agencies and individuals or in some states, regional centers. In our “Where to Start” section, you will find links to “State by State” guides to help you find services in your area.
How do I interview a potential provider?
Once you’ve identified the type of therapy you’d like to use and find the local person or group you’d like to use, set up an interview. During the interview, you’ll want to take the time to get to know the provider. Get a feel for them. You do not want to sit down and figure out a working schedule right away. You’ll want to ask some pertinent questions:
- What is their past experience working with children?
- With special needs children?
- With children on the spectrum?
- What is their educational background?
- What certifications do they hold?
- What is their mission statement/philosophy?
- What are their program goals?
- What does their program consist of?
- Are they reliable, responsible and punctual?
- Do they have any references you can call?
- Why do they want to work with children on the autism spectrum?
- For providers potentially working with your child in an intensive program,
- Do they have children?
- If so, do they have reliable childcare for their children? Can arrangements be made when their child is sick or on break from school, so that your child’s schedule isn’t affected?
Any relevant information about your child should be discussed. If your child has sensory issues affecting smell, then you’ll want to know if the provider smokes, is opposed to minimizing, if not eliminating the use of fragranced products. If your child is extremely active and/or a runner, then you’ll want to know if the provider is physically fit to chase and/or keep up with your active child. Preparing for the interview is the best plan of action, that way, you won’t forget to ask and/or disclose any important information.
We also encourage the provider to ask questions as well. This is not only a time for you to interview the provider, but for the provider to interview you. Some questions you should expect would be:
- What is your child’s diagnosis?
- What goals do you have for your child?
- What programs do you want worked on?
- Has your child had ABA before?
- Does your child receive therapy from any other provider(s)?
- Does your child have other therapists (ST, OT, PT, etc)?
- What days and times are you in need of?
- Are there siblings?
- What type of school program is your child enrolled in?
After you get your questions answered, you can then decide if you need more time to think things over or if you’re ready to work on a schedule. Keep in mind, the provider may need some time to think things over as well.
The most important thing to gain from the interview is a feeling as to whether the provider and their type of therapy would be a good match for your family. If something is bothering you during the interview, imagine how much it is going to be bothering you after a few months of this person spending 1:1 time with your child. Follow your instincts; it is more detrimental to your child to lose a provider after a few weeks or months than it is to not have one at all. The regression that can occur because of such drastic change can be huge.
Once I have a provider, what is required of them?
Once you’ve found a provider, there are requirements that should be met. First, a schedule should be established and any changes should be made with reasonable notice to both the family and the provider. We all know that illness and emergencies happen; however, except due to extreme circumstances, your provider should notify all families with as much notice as possible. The same respect should be given to the provider, in case you need to cancel.
Your provider should be consistent with attendance and punctual for all scheduled sessions. Your provider should arrive ready to work. Sessions should not end early because your child is being non-compliant. Breaks should be minimized, and should be for your child only, meaning the provider should still be engaging your child, regardless of where the break is occurring. Again, the same respect should be shown to the provider. Do your best to always be on time as other children are likely scheduled after yours. Cancel your session with enough notice if your child is ill.
It should never be silent in the therapy room. Even if your child is non-verbal, the provider should be constantly talking with your child; this alone models what a typical conversation is like. Your provider should try to illicit as much language out of your child as possible, at all times.
Your child should look forward to sessions with their. Your child should not be running the other way or crying upon their arrival. If this occurs, then your provider and your child need to continue to build their relationship. A simple way to do this is to engage in activities that are fun and meaningful. Remember, your child is much more likely to be compliant for someone he/she likes, than someone they don’t like.
Adapted with permission by Lori Schulman from Building a Happy Home: Behavioral Architecture for Healthier Living
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- Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
- Floortime DIR
- Relationship Development Training (RDI)
- Pivitol Response Training (PRT)
- Verbal Behavior Therapy
- Early Start Denver Model
- Therapy Supplies