An intervention is any action – such as a treatment, a therapy or the provision of a service – which is designed to help people with autism, including people with autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome or Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified.
There are thousands of different interventions designed to help people with autism, 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 treatments and therapies, as well as a list of Treatments and therapies for autism currently under scientific evaluation by Research Autism. 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:
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 with autism, 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 autism interventions. 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 evaluate an intervention yourself, you may find it useful to ask some key questions.
Richard Mills, Director of Research, the National Autistic Society and Research Director, Research Autism has drawn up a document with some of those questions. Guidance for considering a treatment approach in autism. (Word doc.)
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 Treatments and therapies for autism currently under scientific evaluation by Research Autism 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 Useful resources on autism section of this website.
Last Updated : 20/02/2013 Back to Top