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Autism treatment strategies

There are a number of treatment options for autism. Many of them can be used together and in conjunction with medication, occupational therapy and physical therapy. Early intervention is recommended.

therapist with autistic child

What are your options?

While there is no cure for autism, a number of therapies and treatments designed to help overcome the challenges associated with the disorder are available. The most widely recommended treatment for autism is therapy because it helps with development of skills and poses no risk to the child. This treatment may include behavioural therapy, which works on promoting positive behaviours and minimizing negative ones, or communication therapy, which focuses on improving communication and social skills to better the child’s daily functioning.

Depending on the child, other treatments may be introduced to improve quality of life. For example, antidepressant medications may be prescribed to treat symptoms of anxiety, while medications typically used to treat ADHD (attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder) may be prescribed to help with hyperactivity. Anti-psychotics have recently been found to help with severe behavioural problems caused by autism.

Occupational therapy may be introduced to help the autistic child develop life skills for improved independence, while speech therapy may be suggested to help their improve communication skills. Each of these treatments can be used in conjunction with behavioural-related autism therapies, discussed in detail below.

Applied behavioural analysis

Applied behavioural analysis (ABA) is perhaps the most well-known therapy for autism. This program focuses on encouraging new behaviours by discouraging poor behaviours and rewarding positive ones. ABA consists of a few methods. One is discrete trial training, which involves breaking down a desired lesson into several smaller and more manageable steps. In this training program, correct responses are rewarded, while incorrect responses are ignored. Pivotal response training is another commonly used component of ABA. This program helps children understand how to manage their behaviour and learn to communicate with others. ABA therapy can be started before age 3 and monitors the child’s progress to track improvement.

Learn how to deal with autism behavioural problems >>


Floortime is a relatively new form of autism therapy that involves getting on the floor at the child’s level. Much of this therapy is guided by the child, and the parent and child are encouraged to engage in play that the child enjoys. Unlike other forms of autism therapy that focus on speech and cognitive skills, floortime focuses on emotional development. Parents who utilize floortime will learn how to follow their child’s lead and slowly progress into more complex emotional interactions. Parents are encouraged to use Floortime therapy every day.

Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication-handicapped Children (TEACCH)

TEACCH is a program designed to improve communication skills. Before beginning the program, children take an assessment called the Psychoeducational Profile (PEP) to begin the program at the right level. This program uses pictures to communicate. For example, a task will be broken down into several pictures to demonstrate to children what is expected. This helps with communication and memory.

It’s important to remember that every child is different. Therefore some treatments and therapies might be successful for one child, while a different approach will be more effective for another. Working with your doctor can help you create a plan that works best for your child.

More on autism

Autism warning signs
How to create a safe environment for a child with autism
Coping with an autism diagnosis

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