An Overview of Options for Interventions for Children with Autism
A diagnosis of a childhood developmental or emotional disorder sets parents on an anxious journey to find solutions. When, how often, how long, and with whom are just a few of the questions racing through every parent’s mind as they face which interventions for children with autism to choose from. All too often parents face putting their child into one program or another rather than finding the programs that fit their child’s individual needs. One approach may not meet the diversity and variability of special needs and all too often few options and limited expert guidance is available.
We know that early identification, early interventions for children with autism and intensity are critical and make a difference. While we cannot yet explain the causes, we know autism spectrum disorders involve uneven neural connectivity that affects many parts of the brain in different ways for every child. We also know children live in different families, in different cultures and environments, and have separate experiences, all bearing influence on development. This requires interventions for children with autism to embrace complexity and be a dynamic, comprehensive, and systematic force to support progress.
Profectum believes development can be advanced throughout the lifespan. This requires a strong treatment foundation that provides the structure to maximize a child’s development. From this base, other interventions for children with autism can be integrated.
Questions about your child’s abilities and challenges to help you and your team determine appropriate therapeutic components for him at each step as he grows and develops may include the following:
- How does he learn about his world? Does he rely more on his visual or auditory system or a combination of both?
- How does he relate to you and others?
- What is his ability to attend, emotionally engage and sustain reciprocal interactions?
- Can he participate in either verbal or nonverbal (gestural) communication?
- How does his sensory system help or hinder his development and daily function?
- How does he use his motor system to coordinate his body and to meet his needs and wants?
- What behaviors might be impeding his developmental progress?
- Does he have any health concerns affecting his development and/or behavior?
- What are his interests and how can they be used to help foster his interactions with you and others?
Answers to these types of questions allow you to go beyond a diagnostic label to knowing your child. Once you have identified all of the particular challenges that are derailing his development then you will be better able to match his needs with the treatment programs available in your community and what fits best for your family. There are many approaches in the treatment menu and the most common are described below. Each approach has several therapeutic paradigms.
The Treatment Menu
Profectum recognizes various approaches offer targeted interventions to consider at different points in time for any individual child. These interventions for children with autism often overlap in approach and need to be considered when creating a comprehensive treatment plan that tailors the work to individual differences, builds the developmental foundations, and identifies ways the child can best learn to communicate, think, learn and develop relationships.
Parents are encouraged to find developmental experts that can help them plan the comprehensive treatment approach for disorders as diverse as the autism spectrum and other developmental and emotional disorders. The list below attempts to categorize various approaches towards interventions for children with autism to explore, though approaches overlap. This list is not all-inclusive, as there are other approaches as well. Families can find more information at Autism Speaks’ ASD Video Glossary .
- Developmental, Individualized, Relationship-Based model (also known as DIRFloortime®)
- P.L.A.Y. PROJECT
- Play Therapy Training
- Hanen Program
- RDI – Relationship Development Intervention
- The Son-Rise Program
- Developmental Psychotherapy
Early Intervention Treatment
- Inclusion and Special Education Services
- Feurerstein’s Mediated Learning Experience (MLE)
- Lindamood-Bell Instruction
- Visual Spatial Skills
- Occupational Therapy – Sensory Integration
- Speech and Language Therapy
- Physical Therapy
- Social Thinking
- Visual Spatial Cognitive
- Miller Method
- Creative Arts Therapy
Medical and Nutritional
- In addition to various interventional approaches, medical and nutritional treatments may be beneficial for the child as well and should be considered.
The Committee on Educational Interventions for Children with Autism of National Research Council conducted a review of well-known intervention models in its 2001 book Educating Children with Autism. While it’s dated, it does provide some useful information in the Chapter on Comprehensive Programs.
Another summary of intervention approaches can be found on the Autism Speaks website.