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For a parent, any medical condition that your child is diagnosed with can feel devastating. Autism in particular can be an intimidating diagnosis because it will affect your child for the entirety of their life. According to the CDC, approximately 1 in 44 children will be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.   

What is autism: “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.” 

Whether your child is newly diagnosed and you need some guidance on where to start, or you’re just looking into some different treatment options, here are the most common treatment options to consider for a child with ASD: 

Behavioral Approaches 

The most common behavioral approach is Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). The goal with this type of therapy is to encourage wanted behaviors and discourage any negative ones. For example, if your child follows your directions without any resistance this would warrant praise and encouragement to continue the positive behavior. However, if your child acts in some capacity that is or could be harmful to themselves or others, like hitting, interacting with questionable strangers, or wandering away from home, this would be behavior to strongly discourage.  

Different types of ABA include: 

  • Discrete Trial Training (DTT) 
  • Positive Behavioral and Support (PBS) 
  • Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI)
  • Pivotal Response Training (PRT) 

Developmental Approaches 

These approaches focus mainly on language and physical skills. Some children with ASD may communicate verbally while others may not. Speech and Language Therapy can be beneficial in teaching a child how to learn, recognize, and use language and speech more effectively. 

Occupational Therapy can help teach a child with ASD how to navigate and complete everyday tasks that ultimately will help them live more independently. To help a child become more comfortable with sensory input that might usually overwhelm them, an occupational therapist might incorporate Sensory Integration Therapy. If a child needs help with physical skill, Physical Therapy might also be used. 

Educational Approaches  

Though a child with autism might have a harder time in particular environments, like a classroom, or need a different approach to learning, there are several great educational approaches to utilize both at home and school. 

Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication-Handicapped Children, also known as TEACCH, is a program that provides special education teachers, and other professionals, with strategies to create an accommodating and positive learning environment for those with ASD. The program focuses on the fact that most children with ASD are more visual learners and have trouble with attention and social communication. This is mainly for use at school or in a medical professional’s office, not at home. 

Another educational model is SCERTS, a program that focuses more on preventing behavioral problems while teaching children with ASD to be stronger communicators and build healthy connections with others. Unlike TEACCH, this model is designed for the child’s family, educators, and healthcare professionals to all work cohesively and foster strong “family-professional partnerships” for the best possible results. SCERTS stands for: 

SC: Social Communication 

ER: Emotional Regulation 

TS: Transactional Support 

Social-Relational Approaches 

Social-Relational Approaches work on how to improve social skills and effectively form emotional relationships. “Floortime”, also known as The Developmental, Individual Differences, Relationship-Based model, is literally where the parent gets down onto the floor and interacts with their child at the child’s own level. 

Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) is another significant Social-Relational Approach. Also used to improve emotional and social skills, RDI utilizes the parent as the primary therapist. Initially this program involves a lot of one-on-one work between the parent and child with the goal of building a “guided participation” relationship. 

Pharmacological Approaches 

“There are no medications that treat the core symptoms of ASD. Some medications treat co-occurring symptoms that can help people with ASD function better.” – CDC 

Psychological Approaches 

Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT) is the most common psychological approach. This type of therapy helps teach about the connections between feelings, thoughts, and behaviors to help those with ASD who might also be coping with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues. 

Complementary and Alternative Treatments 

The CDC also states that parents can “supplement more traditional approaches. [This] might include special diets, herbal supplements, chiropractic care, animal therapy, arts therapy, mindfulness, or relaxation therapies.” 

While these are the most common treatment options for children with ASD there are also other treatment options available. This is purely for informational purposes, so please be sure to consult with your child’s doctor before deciding to implement any treatment option.

Show your support for autism

Throughout April, celebrate Autism Awareness Month by educating yourself and others about autism. Also consider resharing this blog to social media on April 2nd for World Autism Awareness Day using the following hashtags: