There are over 20 different treatment options for autism, leaving many parents feeling overwhelmed and confused about which option might be the best for them. While there are treatment options that have been proven to show benefits, there is no one treatment that works for everyone. Scientists are continuing researching the possibility that there may be different types of autism and/or different causes, as well as the effectiveness of the different treatment options.

Because each child is different, treatments and goals need to be tailored to your child’s needs after the child has had a thorough evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses observed in the child. Evaluations should be conducted in each of the developmental areas:

  • Academic
  • Behavior
  • Communication (understanding language, expressing language,
  • Fine Motor (grasping small items, holding a pencil)
  • Gross Motor (walking, hopping, running, throwing, catching)
  • Self-help Skills (eating, toileting, dressing)
  • Sensory Processing (motor planning, modulation, over/under responsiveness of sensory stimuli-touch, taste, hearing, vision, smell, sense of balance, body awareness)
  • Social/Emotional (friendship skills, coping skills, play skills, etc.)
  • Biomedical (food allergies, bowel issues, etc.)

Treatment should be re-evaluated on a regular basis.  Evidence-based practice has become the current benchmark for professionals in medicine, psychology, education, and other healthcare fields. Evidence-based practice includes a combination of the best available scientific evidence, professional expertise, and understanding of client.  

Funding Treatment

Your Local School District

For children 36 months to 21 years, 9 months of age, your local school district can be responsible for treating the educational issues related to autism.  Eligibility for these services is determined by an assessment process – a medical diagnosis of a disability doesn’t automatically entitle a student to special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).  

If your child does qualify, the school must provide a free, appropriate, public education in the least restrictive environment possible.  Services for students with autism could typically include speech language therapy, occupational therapy, and specialized education services.  It may also include behavior support and mental health counseling.  The services needed will be based on the needs of your child and the goals written in your child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP).  

Medical Insurance

Autism is a medical condition which impacts the brain functions.  It requires early and intensive medical and educational interventions in order to have the best possible outcomes for our children.  Health insurance can treat the medical condition of autism. 

On July 1, 2012, the Autism Health Insurance Law went into effect in California.  This law requires California regulated plans (not all of them are) and CalPERS plans to provide coverage for behavioral health treatment, speech and occupational therapy for children and adults (there is no age limit!). In Sept 2014, California became the first state to require that Medi-Cal insurance companies also cover these benefits for children under the age of 22 years.  

You can call your insurance company and ask if they if they provide Autism Services or Behavioral Health Treatment.  

Regional Center

In California, the Lanterman Act requires the state to give appropriate support services to its residents with developmental disabilities, which includes autism.  This can include diagnosis and assessment, individual program planning, coordination of services and case management, behavioral support services, and for adults, employment and residential services and supports.

Not all children or adults with autism will qualify for these services.  A person is eligible for Regional Center Services if they have a “substantial developmental disability,” that originates before the age of 18 and will likely continue indefinitely. The criteria includes an intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism and disabling conditions similar to an intellectual disability that require comparable treatment. Disabling conditions that are solely physical or psychiatric in nature, or solely a learning disability are not eligible for services.

Regional Center also runs a program for infants and toddlers ages 0-36 months called the Early Start Program.  To be eligible, Regional Center will assess the child to determine if they have a 33% delay in one developmental area, an ”established risk’ condition or a ”high risk’ condition.  If so, the child would be eligible for free services and therapy. 

The Inland Empire is served by the Inland Regional Center.