Evidence Based Treatments

Autism Internet Modules (AIM) – Free free modules are geared towards adult learners on this series of topics including assessment and identification of ASDs, recognizing and understanding behaviors and characteristics, transition to adulthood, employment, and numerous evidence-based practices and interventions.  Developed by the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI) in partnership with the Autism Society of America (ASA), the Nebraska Autism Spectrum Disorders Network, the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders and Toronto’s Geneva Centre for Autism, they can be used by schools to train paraprofessionals, by support groups to teach parents, by university faculty members to provide coursework to graduate or undergraduate students.
Early Intervention – National Research Council Educating Children with Autism (2001) – recommends a minimum of 25 hours a week of intensive services as soon as a child is suspected of having autism. Read a summary of the recommendations.

Indiana Resource Center for Autism (IRCA)  headed by Dr. Cathy Pratt has a website loaded with best practice information. The site contains articles, information about all the latest autism-related resources,downloadable training modules that can be reproduced, publications, a collection of articles by Temple Grandin and othersrecommended books, information about conferences and trainings, and more.

National Standards Report:  More than two dozen autism experts looked at 6,400 research abstracts to determine which treatments are considered “established,” “emerging,” or “not established” in the report and then they published a 53 page report

Choosing Treatments

There are over 30 different treatment options for ASD, leaving many parents feeling overwhelmed and confused about which option might be the best for them. And 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. Intervention may help to lessen disruptive behaviors, and education can teach self-help skills that allow for greater independence. An effective treatment program will build on the child’s interests, offer a predictable schedule, teach tasks as a series of simple steps, actively engage the child’s attention in highly structured activities, and provide regular reinforcement of behavior. Parental involvement has emerged as a major factor in treatment success. Parents work with teachers and therapists to identify the behaviors to be changed and the skills to be taught.

Explanation of Different Therapies

Autism Society of America: Provides an overview of different therapies
Autism Research Institute: Autism Research Institute
Generation Rescue: Another page with detailed information about biomedical approaches
Healing Thresholds: has extensive information on different therapies and includes information on scientific research being done. Offers a weekly Autism Therapy eBrief.

The National Standards Project released Evidence-Based Practice and Autism in the Schools in 2009, identified and evaluated 38 treatments/intervention strategies and rated them as established, emerging, unestablished or ineffective/harmful.

Guidelines to Consider

Guidelines used by the Autism Society of America include the following questions parents can ask about potential treatments:

  • Will the treatment result in harm to my child?
  • How will failure of the treatment affect my child and family?
  • Has the treatment been validated scientifically?
  • Are there assessment procedures specified?
  • How will the treatment be integrated into my child’s current program? Do not become so infatuated with a given treatment that functional curriculum, vocational life, and social skills are ignored.

The National Institute of Mental Health suggests a list of questions parents can ask when planning for their child:

  • How successful has the program been for other children?
  • How many children have gone on to placement in a regular school and how have they performed?
  • Do staff members have training and experience in working with children and adolescents with autism?
  • How are activities planned and organized?
  • Are there predictable daily schedules and routines?
  • How much individual attention will my child receive?
  • How is progress measured? Will my child’s behavior be closely observed and recorded?
  • Will my child be given tasks and rewards that are personally motivating?
  • Is the environment designed to minimize distractions?
  • Will the program prepare me to continue the therapy at home?
  • What are the cost, time commitment, and location of the program?