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Types of Autism Treatments and Therapies

Children with autismChildren with autismChildren with autismChildren with autismChildren with autism

This section provides a list of common interventions broken down into different categories.

Like any division the categories below are somewhat arbitrary and subject to change over time. However we hope the categories allow you to see which interventions are broadly similar to which others.

We recognise that there is considerable overlap between many different approaches. For example, many forms of alternative and augmentative communication rely on some form of assistive and adaptive technology.

Over time we hope to describe and evaluate most interventions, providing a rating which tells you the level of scientific evidence which supports or does not support its use.


Categories

Service-Based Interventions | Standard Health Care Services | Complementary and Alternative Medicine | Behavioural/Developmental Interventions | Psychotherapeutic Interventions | Medications | Biomedical Interventions | Motor Sensory Interventions | Alternative and Augmentative Communication | Assistive and Adaptive Technology | Other Interventions |

Disclaimer

This section does not provide information about every intervention used by people with autism, although we hope you will find it a useful starting point. If you know of any other interventions we should include in this section please email info@researchautism.net.

The fact that an intervention is listed in this section page does not necessarily mean that there is any scientifically valid or reliable evidence to support its use.

Our descriptions and evaluations do not constitute a recommendation about whether or not an intervention is suitable for a particular individual with autism. That is a decision for the individual with autism – and/or their carers, clinicians and others – to make.

Please see Autism Treatment Notes for more information about this and similar pages.

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Service-Based Interventions

Children with autismChildren with autismChildren with autismChildren with autismChildren with autism

Education services

Services which are primarily concerned with educating and developing individuals with autism.

Please see separate section on Behavioural /Developmental Interventions

Employment services

Services which are designed to help people with autism find and keep a job or other gainful employment suited to their needs and abilities. inc. Supported Employment,

Social Care Services

Services which are designed for assessing the needs of, and providing support to, individuals with autism in the community inc. Advocacy, Residential Care, Short Breaks, Social Groups

Find out more about Service Based Interventions inc. Descriptions, Research Studies and Our Evaluations.

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Standard Healthcare Services

Children with autismChildren with autismChildren with autismChildren with autismChildren with autism

Standard healthcare services are designed to maintain the health and well-being of individuals with autism and include a wide range of treatments and therapies which are accepted and used by the majority of health care professionals.

Most standard health care providers use a variety of approaches and techniques. For example, occupational therapists, psychologists and speech and language therapists often work together using a combination of behavioural, developmental, AAC and motor-sensory interventions.

Standard healtcare includes Medication, Occupational Therapy, Osteopathy, Physiotherapy, Psychology, Psychotherapy, and Speech and Language Therapy (Speech Pathology)

See Service Based Interventions for Descriptions, Research Studies and Our Evaluations.

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Complementary and Alternative Medicine

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Complementary and Alternative Medicine is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional, Western medicine as practiced by medical doctors and by allied health professionals, such as osteopaths, physiotherapists, psychologists, and registered nurses.

“Complementary medicine” refers to the use of CAM together with conventional medicine.

“Alternative medicine” refers to the use of CAM in place of conventional medicine.

Find out more about Complementary and Alternative Medicine Descriptions, Research Studies and Our Evaluations.

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Behavioural and Developmental Interventions

Children with autismChildren with autismChildren with autismChildren with autismChildren with autism

Behavioural and developmental interventions include a large and diverse range of educational strategies, programmes and techniques – including most forms of teaching and coaching.

Behavioural interventions are designed to encourage appropriate behaviour (such as getting dressed or talking to other people) and to discourage inappropriate behaviour (such as self harm or aggression towards others). Therapists, teachers and/or parents break down the desired behaviours into small, achievable tasks which are then taught in a very structured manner.

Developmental interventions are designed to target the core deficits within each child rather than his or her outward behaviours. Therapists and/or parents work with the child’s own interests or actions to slowly build engagement, interaction, communication, affection, and then specific skills such as logical reasoning, symbolic thinking etc.

Find out more about Behavioural and Developmental Interventions inc Descriptions, Research Studies and Our Evaluations.

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Psychotherapeutic Interventions

Children with autismChildren with autismChildren with autismChildren with autismChildren with autism

Psychotherapy is a term used to describe a range of interventions based on one or more processes that allow a person to come to a fuller understanding of their abilities, difficulties, motivations or worries in conjunction with the therapist.

For example, some forms of psychotherapy – such as counselling – are based on an individual talking to a therapist. Others are based on the individual learning to express themselves through a creative art form such as dance or music. Others are based on improving communication and relationships with others.

Find out more about Psychotherapeutic Interventions inc Descriptions, Research Studies and Our Evaluations.

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Medications

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Medications – also known as pharmaceutical drugs, medicines, or medicaments – can be loosely defined as chemical substances intended for use in the medical diagnosis, cure, treatment, or prevention of disease. Some of these substances, such as piracetam, are also sometimes taken as nutritional supplements.

There are various ways in which medications can be classified, such as by chemical properties, mode or route of administration, biological system affected, or therapeutic effects.

Find out more about Medication inc Descriptions, Research Studies and Our Evaluations.

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Biomedical Interventions

BreadInhalerBananasSyringeVitamins

‘Biomedical’ is a very loose term that means different things to different people. In practice, most people use the term to refer to a group of interventions which are designed to stop, or at least reduce, the effect of biomedical problems – such as gastrointestinal abnormalities, immune dysfunctions, detoxification abnormalities, and/or nutritional deficiencies or imbalances.

The supporters of biomedical interventions believe that these biomedical problems act as ‘triggers’ which cause, or at least exacerbate, many of the problems faced by people with autism. They believe that those problems can be solved, or at least reduced, by following one or more biomedical interventions.

There is a vast range of biomedical interventions, many of which are considered to be forms of complementary or alternative medicine by most traditional health care practitioners. Biomedical interventions include diets, nutritional supplements and hormones, the ‘off-label’ use of some medications, as well as practices such as chelation and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Find out more about Bimoedical Interventions inc Descriptions, Research Studies and Our Evaluations.

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Motor/Sensory Interventions

Children with autism playing with a parachuteWeighted VestWoman in flotation tankHeadphonesMultisensory environment

Motor interventions refer to any treatments and therapies which make use of, or which aim to improve, motor functioning i.e. movement of the whole body or parts of the body.

Sensory interventions refer to any treatments and therapies which make use of, or which aim to improve sensitivity to, one or more of the senses.

Some interventions – such as sensory integrative therapy – may be designed to improve a range of motor and sensory functions.

Find out more about Motor Sensory Interventions inc Descriptions, Research Studies and Our Evaluations.

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Alternative and Augmentative Communication

Sign languageFacilitated CommunicationPicture Exchange Communication SystemMakaton signVoice Output Communication Aid

Alternative and Augmentative Communication is any form of communication that people use if they are unable or unwilling to use standard forms of communication such as speech.

Alternative communication systems are designed to replace standard means of communication. Augmentative communication systems are designed to complement and sometimes enhance standard means of communication.

Find out more about Alternative and Augmentative Communication inc Descriptions, Research Studies and Our Evaluations.

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Assistive and Adaptive Technology

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Assistive and adaptive technology refers to any products, devices or equipment that are used to maintain, increase or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with autism.

Find out more about Assistive and Adaptive Technology inc Descriptions, Research Studies and Our Evaluations.

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Other Interventions

Training eventChild with autism in a playgroundHouse of ParliamentDolphinAdult with autism

Other Interventions include any interventions not covered by the other categoriese on this page such as Animal Therapies and Politics and PR

Find out more about Other Interventions inc Descriptions, Research Studies and Our Evaluations.

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Related Links

Back to Interventions, Treatments and Therapies for Autism

Last Updated : 20/11/2013
Next Review : 20/11/2014
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