Which Therapy is Best for Autism

Discover which therapy is best for autism. Explore comprehensive, empowering treatment options.

judah schiller
Judah Schiller
April 23, 2024
Published On
April 23, 2024

Therapy Options for Autism

In the quest to determine which therapy is best for autism, several options stand out due to their proven effectiveness in managing and improving symptoms associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). These include Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Relationship Development Intervention (RDI), and various forms of Play Therapy.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the most commonly used therapy for children with autism and focuses on developing social skills, language competency, and good behavior. ABA uses positive reinforcement techniques, rewards, and consequences to encourage desirable behaviors and minimize undesirable ones.

The benefits of ABA therapy are manifold. It can help children with autism improve communication skills, attention, focus, social skills, memory, and academics. It's a flexible treatment that can be adapted to meet the needs of each unique individual and can be implemented in various locations - at home, at school, and in the community.

Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)

Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) is another therapy option for children with autism. It educates children on how to form bonds with their parents and family members, emphasizing psychological, social, and flexible thinking.

The goal of RDI is to improve long-term quality of life by helping children form meaningful social relationships. This approach involves teaching parents strategies to help their children build these skills in a natural environment. It's a family-based intervention, meaning that parents are involved in every step of the treatment.

Play Therapy

Play therapy is a therapeutic approach that uses play to help children with autism interact with others, broaden their focus, engage in collaborative experiences, and develop relationships.

One form of play therapy, known as Floortime therapy, involves playing with the child on their terms, encouraging communication and new learning experiences. Studies show that children who have Floortime therapy for 25 hours a week for 2 years or longer improve in all areas of development.

Another form of play therapy involves Integrated Play Groups (IPGs), which combine children both with and without autism spectrum disorder to improve social skills and play. Research shows that children with ASD who had two 30-minute IPG sessions a week for 4 months had improved quality of play, used toys in a more typical way, and showed better social interaction with their peers [2].

These therapy options each offer unique benefits and can be effective in treating the symptoms of autism. However, the best therapy for any individual with autism will depend on their unique needs, preferences, and circumstances. It's important to work closely with healthcare providers and therapists to determine the most suitable treatment plan.

Speech and Language Therapy

Speech and language therapy is a central part of autism treatment, aiming to improve a child's ability to communicate, form relationships, and function in daily life. This therapy can be executed in various ways, including equestrian therapy, Floortime therapy, and integrated play groups (IPGs).

Equestrian Therapy

Equestrian therapy, also known as therapeutic horseback riding, can be an effective tool for children with autism. The therapy aims to improve social and communication skills and reduce symptoms such as irritability and hyperactivity. This unique approach offers a lively and engaging environment for the child, fostering both physical and emotional growth.

Benefits of Equestrian Therapy Effectiveness
Improved social skills Yes
Better communication skills Yes
Reduced irritability Yes
Decreased hyperactivity Yes

Floortime Therapy

Floortime therapy is a play-based treatment that involves engaging with the child on their terms. This flexible approach encourages communication and new learning experiences. Studies show that children who have Floortime therapy for 25 hours a week for 2 years or longer improve in all areas of development [2].

Benefits of Floortime Therapy Effectiveness
Improved communication Yes
Enhanced learning experiences Yes
Developmental progress Yes

Integrated Play Groups (IPGs)

Integrated Play Groups (IPGs) are an innovative approach that combines children both with and without autism spectrum disorder. This mix helps to improve social skills and play. Research shows that children with ASD who had two 30-minute IPG sessions a week for 4 months had improved quality of play, used toys in a more typical way, and showed better social interaction with their peers.

Benefits of Integrated Play Groups Effectiveness
Improved social skills Yes
Enhanced quality of play Yes
Better interaction with peers Yes

These therapies, when used in combination with other treatments like Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), can make a significant difference in the lives of children with autism. ABA uses rewards to reinforce positive behaviors, teach new skills, and provide moment-by-moment feedback. Early, intensive ABA therapy can lead to significant and lasting progress in communication, social skills, personal care, and school work [2].

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is a cornerstone in the treatment of autism, with several approaches showing significant progress in helping individuals manage their symptoms. Let's delve into three such methods: Joint Attention Symbolic Play Engagement, the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), and Pharmacological Approaches.

Joint Attention Symbolic Play Engagement

Joint Attention Symbolic Play Engagement and Regulation (JASPER) therapy is an effective method that encourages children with autism to focus, engage in pretend play, improve their social skills, and learn to play with others. This type of therapy can last up to 25 hours per week, with noticeable improvements in skill development within a few weeks.

Therapy Hours per Week Improvements Seen
JASPER Up to 25 Within a few weeks

Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)

The Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) is a developmental approach based on Applied Behavior Analysis principles. It specifically targets children aged between 12 and 48 months to improve their language, social, and learning skills through play and natural interactions with parents and therapists [3].

Therapy Target Age Focus
ESDM 12-48 months Language, Social, and Learning Skills

Pharmacological Approaches

Although pharmacological approaches do not directly treat the core symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), they can help manage co-occurring symptoms such as high energy levels, focus issues, self-harming behavior, anxiety, depression, seizures, sleep problems, and gastrointestinal issues. It's vital to work in collaboration with experienced doctors to monitor progress and potential side effects when considering medication use [3].

Therapy Target Collaboration
Pharmacological Approaches Co-occurring symptoms With Experienced Doctors

In conclusion, finding the best therapy for autism involves understanding the individual's needs and working with healthcare professionals to devise a personalized treatment plan. Remember, what works best for one individual may not work as effectively for another. Hence, it's critical to approach autism treatment with patience, understanding, and a willingness to adapt.

Early Intervention Strategies

Exploring which therapy is best for autism involves understanding a range of early intervention strategies, including developmental approaches, educational treatments, and complementary and alternative therapies. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends starting to research therapies as soon as autism is suspected, rather than waiting for a formal diagnosis, as it can take time to get a formal diagnosis, involving tests and follow-ups with specialists [2].

Developmental Approaches

Developmental approaches, such as Speech and Language Therapy, are common therapies for individuals with ASD. Speech and Language Therapy helps to improve understanding and use of speech and language, utilizing verbal or non-verbal communication methods.

Occupational Therapy is another common developmental approach therapy for individuals with ASD, aiming to teach skills for independent living such as dressing, eating, bathing, and relating to people. Occupational Therapy may also incorporate specific models like the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) that is based on Applied Behavior Analysis principles.

Educational Treatments

Educational treatments, like the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication-Handicapped Children (TEACCH) approach, are delivered in a classroom setting and focus on adjusting the classroom structure to cater to individuals with autism. TEACCH emphasizes consistency, visual learning, and structured routines to improve academic and other outcomes.

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Complementary and alternative therapies (CAM) are used by up to 95% of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), indicating a high prevalence of CAM usage among children with ASD [4]. However, few studies have been conducted on the benefits and safety of CAM for children with ASD, suggesting a lack of concrete evidence regarding the efficacy and safety of CAM therapies for this group of children.

Therapies falling under CAM may not be covered by insurance, making them expensive for families with children with ASD. Additionally, herbal supplements used in CAM are not regulated for safety by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) like prescription medicine.

These early intervention strategies provide a variety of options for families seeking the best therapy for a child with autism. The effectiveness of these therapies may vary depending on the child's unique needs and circumstances, making it vital to explore a range of options and consult with healthcare professionals to find the best fit.


[1]: https://www.songbirdcare.com/articles/types-of-therapy-for-autism

[2]: https://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/therapies-to-help-with-autism

[3]: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/treatment.html

[4]: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/Autism/Pages/complementary-and-alternative-therapies-for-autism-what-parents-need-to-know.aspx