Written by Dr. Andrea Potthoff PhD LP
Your child has just been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). What now? With so many intervention possibilities, here are some of the most common and research-supported options to consider.
For children that are non-verbal, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is usually the first place to start. Research shows that the sooner a child begins ABA, the better their prognosis and language skills will be in the future. A report by the American Academy of Pediatrics demonstrated that early ABA intervention can result in improvements in IQ, language, and adaptive skills. ABA is one form of behavior modification. Depending on the needs of the child, ABA services may be used daily or several times a week.
Using many of the same principles as ABA, behavior therapy focuses on increasing desired behaviors, such as prosocial behavior, and decreasing undesired behaviors, such as aggression. The goal of this type of intervention is to increase the child’s overall compliance with directions without resorting to conflict. Parent-Child Interaction Training (PCIT) is one type of behavior therapy and has strong research support. Behavior therapy uses concrete goals and measurable outcomes that will differ in terms of your child’s developmental level and severity of symptoms.
Social Skills Training
One of the hallmark symptoms of ASD is difficulty with social interactions. This may include trouble noticing and understanding nonverbal cues, engaging in turn-taking conversations, or responding appropriately in social situations. Social skills training is a behavioral therapy that helps individuals learn the rules of social interactions that do not come as naturally in individuals with ASD. Social skills training can be conducted in individual and group formats.
Depending on your state and school system, a diagnosis of ASD allows your child access to many different academic supports. This can range from services such as being in a special education classroom, meeting with an interventionist once a week, or receiving speech/occupational therapy and depends on the severity of the diagnosis and your child’s needs. Often times you will need to advocate for your child to maximize the services they receive in this setting.
A diagnosis of ASD can often have a substantial effect on parents, caregivers, and siblings. Family therapy can help address these challenges and improve communication for all family members. Sometimes this is needed shortly after a diagnosis and for other families, they find this type of intervention most helpful during transition phases (e.g., child entering adolescence, birth of a new sibling). Support for parents and siblings is always a valuable option to consider.
There are many other intervention options that exist for individuals with ASD and their families. When considering a potential intervention, we recommend considering the research support for the intervention and looking at the right fit for your child’s development level. Most likely, the best intervention for your child will change over time. If you have questions or would like more information about the interventions we provide, please call us at 612-470-4099.