Raising a child with autism can feel like a full-time job, but you don’t have to do it alone. Working with an autism therapist gives your child the opportunity to build skills and navigate challenges, and the right therapist will also provide support for parents and caregivers.

To get the most benefit, it’s important to understand the differences in types of therapy so you can choose the option most suited to your child’s needs. You’ll also want to take a close look at the characteristics of the individual therapist so you can ensure a good fit for your child.

Types of Autism Therapists
Autism encompasses a range of needs and challenges, from social challenges to speech and language delays, to associated conditions like anxiety or ADHD. You may need to work with different types of therapists to give your child the help they need. Here are some of the options to consider:

  • ABA Therapy – ABA therapy provides guidance and support to help your child build skills and navigate social and learning environments more effectively. Therapy may include practicing social interactions, daily routines in the home, interactions at school or in the community, and more. The goal is to identify challenging behaviors and replace them with more desirable behaviors as well as setting goals for learning new skills.
  • Occupational Therapy – Occupational therapy addresses the functional activities of daily living. These may include development of fine motor skills, sensory integration, organizational skills, and more.
  • Speech Therapy – A speech therapist will work with your child on the mechanics of communication, including verbal skills, non-verbal skills, and social communication.

How to Choose an Autism Therapist
The process of choosing an autism therapist may feel overwhelming, since this person will play a significant role in your child’s growth and development. In addition to the specifics of the therapy approach, you will also want to carefully consider whether the therapist’s personality fits your child’s personality and needs.

Here are 4 things to consider as you evaluate your options.

  1. Credentials and Qualifications
    The baseline requirement for any therapist is that they have the proper credentials and professional qualifications. For ABA therapists, this means being certified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). The BACB certifies providers at the Analyst and Technician levels.Your child’s care team should include a Board Certified Behavior Analyst who determines the treatment plan and monitors progress. The team may also include one or more Registered Behavior Technicians who work with your child and implement treatment recommendations.
  2. Therapy Approach
    Talk to the therapist about their proposed treatment plan and how they use data to track progress. The more personalized the plan is, the more effective it will be. The therapist should consider your child’s learning style and specific needs as they determine how to approach treatment. Be sure to ask whether therapy is available outside the clinic as well (for example, home-based therapy or interactions in the community), so your child can learn skills in a variety of settings.
  3. Personality
    Children respond to certain personalities better than others, so it’s important that both you and your child feel comfortable right at the start. To make progress, your child will need to establish a positive, trust-based relationship with the therapist. Take your time with this step and don’t be shy about switching if the relationship doesn’t seem to be a good fit.
  4. Support for Parents
    An experienced therapist should provide plenty of support to help parents and families learn the treatment interventions they are using, answer questions, and provide support to help them succeed. Consider the therapist’s communication style and availability as well as how the treatment plan will impact your family.

No matter where your child falls on the autism spectrum, finding the right resources to support you will make a huge difference in the quality of life for your entire family. Don’t be afraid to keep looking if you aren’t comfortable with the first therapist you meet. You know your child best, so trust your instincts as you choose an autism therapist to partner with you in your child’s care.