An intervention is any action (such as a treatment, a therapy or the provision of a service) which is designed to help people on the autism spectum.
There are thousands of different interventions designed to help autistic people, including applied behavioural analysis, drama therapy, gluten-free diet, Lego therapy, sensory integration training, snake oil, swimming with dolphins, and taking vitamin supplements.
This website provides an Alphabetic list of interventions, a classification of the different Types of autism interventions, treatments and therapies, as well as Our Evaluations of Autism Interventions, Treatments and Therapies. We hope to evaluate more and more interventions as resources allow.
It depends on who you ask. Different people make different claims for different interventions. But, in general, most interventions are designed to do one or more of the following things:
Of course some people claim that some interventions can do all of these things.
This depends on a range of factors, including the needs of the person on the autism spectrum, as well as the availability and cost of each intervention. The most commonly used interventions in the UK include
In practice most people use a combination of these interventions.
Most interventions appear to produce benefits of some kind, otherwise people wouldn't use them. Unfortunately in some cases these apparent benefits are short-term, insignificant or illusory. And any benefits may be outweighed by the financial and emotional costs of the intervention, or the dangers inherent in some therapies.
At present there is very little scientifically valid research into the effectiveness of most interventions designed to help people on the autism spectrum. However we do know that some interventions are more promising than others.
For example, there is strong scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of interventions such as early intensive behavioural intervention for young children. And there is equally strong scientific evidence to show that some interventions, such as facilitated communication, are not effective.
Having said all that, each person with autism is different and what works for one person may not work for another.
There are a number of reasons why it is difficult to evaluate interventions. For example
Even supposedly scientific studies may be flawed, leading to biased and inaccurate findings.
If you are trying to make the decision about which interventions to use, you may find it useful to look at some key tools, including some principles and key questions.
It can be really difficult to find high-quality information that is accurate, up-to-date and reliable. When you do find the right information, it may be written in scientific gobbledygook that you can't understand. That is one reason this site has a Glossary of terms on autism.
The Research Autism website is one of the few which aims to provide clear and scientifically valid information about the most commonly used interventions.
Please see Our Evaluations of Autism Interventions, Treatments and Therapies for more information about those interventions.
If you can't find scientifically valid information about a specific intervention please contact us and we will try to find that information for you.
We regret that because we are a small research charity we cannot provide advice to individuals on which interventions they should or should not use.
You can find a range of organisations which may be able to help in the Resources on Autism section of this website.