Autism can be an intimidating diagnosis, but there’s plenty of good news for families seeking ASD treatment. Modern therapy approaches have good rates of success, and therapists can help children with autism make huge strides toward increased independence, improved social skills, and enhanced quality of life.

What Types of ASD Treatment Are Available?

As you consider your treatment options, it’s helpful to understand that different therapies aim to accomplish different goals. Your child may benefit from several different kinds of therapy to address varying physical, social, emotional, and cognitive needs.

Here are 5 types of ASD treatment that may be part of a total treatment plan:

  • ABA Therapy – ABA therapy uses a personalized approach that considers the unique needs and challenges of each child and family. A board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) will work with your family to identify these needs, create goals, and teach new skills within the context of daily routines. ABA therapy is an evidenced-based, proven treatment that breaks down goal behaviors into small, manageable steps and monitors progress over time. It is different from other types of therapy because it teaches skills in the context of real life, and it can address many kinds of challenges within the scope of treatment. For example, ABA therapy may work to improve communication skills, personal care skills, social interactions, academic performance, and problem behaviors through custom, personalized goal-setting and routines.
  • Speech Therapy – Language and speech delays can make it difficult for children with autism to communicate with others. They may struggle to understand facial expressions and gestures, they may be non-verbal, or they may repeat words and phrases, speak in a sing-song tone, or babble. Speech therapy meets your child where they are and helps them make progress toward communicating more effectively. This may mean adjusting tone of voice, working on enunciation, communicating with pictures, or practicing conversations.
  • Occupational Therapy – Occupational therapy teaches a broad range of skills needed to improve functioning in daily activities. For children with autism, occupational therapy may focus on things like fine motor skills, sensory challenges, personal care tasks, and other activities that will help foster independence and improved quality of life.
  • Physical Therapy – Physical therapy helps children with movement delays or disorders that commonly occur with autism. A physical therapist can work with your child to improve coordination, balance, muscle strength, and motor skills needed for developmental milestones such as walking, jumping, or skipping.
  • Medication – Medication may sometimes be used to mitigate symptoms of conditions that co-occur with autism. While autism itself is not an illness and cannot be treated with medication, children who also present with ADHD, anxiety, sleep problems, or other challenges may benefit from medication in some cases.

Where Does ASD Treatment Take Place?

Depending on the type of treatment your child needs, you may meet with a therapist in a variety of settings. Some therapies can effectively meet your child’s needs in the clinic, while others work best when they interact with your child in other contexts:

  • In the Clinic – The clinic provides a structured, distraction-free environment where a therapist can work with your child on specific skills. In some cases, therapy will take place entirely within the context of the clinic (for example, speech therapy and physical therapy). For other types of therapy, such as ABA therapy, the clinic may serve as only one of several settings in the overall treatment plan.
  • At Home – Home-based therapy is an essential part of ABA therapy, because it allows your child to learn new skills they can practice as part of their daily routine in the context of real life. Occupational therapists may also work with your family at home, depending on the goals of treatment and the needs of your child.
  • In the Community – Community-based therapy gives your child a chance to transfer the skills they learn to less familiar contexts such as school, the grocery store, or the park. An ABA therapist may attend school with your child to help them develop necessary skills to benefit from classroom instruction and social interactions, or they may practice skills in other environments to improve independence and confidence.

How to Find ASD Treatment

Every child with autism has unique strengths, weaknesses, and challenges. That’s one of the reasons autism is known as a spectrum disorder. There is no standard set of symptoms and no one-size-fits-all approach. To find the best ASD treatment for your child, start by talking with your pediatrician or the care team who performs your child’s assessment. You may also want to reach out to autism organizations in your area to find provider recommendations and resources.

Once you have a list of providers, evaluate each one based on their credentials and treatment approach, as well as the personality of the therapist. Look for someone your child likes and feels comfortable with, and ask them what kind of support they offer for families and caregivers.

Finding the right ASD treatment provider may feel like a lot of work, but the rewards are huge. Therapy is a critical investment in your child’s future, and it can dramatically improve quality of life both for your child and for your family as a whole.