AN INTRODUCTION TO EARLY
There is a broad range of therapies for Autism Spectrum Disorders such as Autism
syndrome, but the effectiveness of each varies dramatically
from child to child. Progress on medical and behavior modification
remedies has been hindered significantly by disagreements over the
nature and causes of Autism Spectrum Disorders, and by a relative
lack of effective therapies thus far recognized by medical authorities.
The situation is further complicated by parents who have found a
particular treatment effective, and may advocate this as a cure-all
for Autism, Aspergers syndrome, and other Autism Spectrum Disorders.
While there is no cure for Autism Spectrum Disorders,
research indicates that intensive educational and behavioural interventions
can have a major effect when started as early as possible (ie. two
years of age and on).
why early intervention is crucial for autisTIC SPECTRUM DISORDERS
If a child experiences a developmental delay,
this can compound over time. The principle of early intervention
is to provide appropriate therapies to minimize these delays and
maximize their chances of reaching normal milestones in development.
The focus of early intervention coordinates therapies
• Build better
communication and social interaction skills
• Manage obsessive, repetitive
• develop activities of daily
living skills (hygiene, dressing,
• Improve physical coordination
• Teaching joint attention skills, play, and imitation
• Manage sensory
why evidence-based treatment is important
There are many types of interventions available
for Autism Spectrum Disorders, ranging from those with solid research
backing their effectiveness, others relying on anecdotal evidence,
to those deliberately exploiting vulnerable parents. Evidence-based
treatment is based on rigorous research to ensure the effectiveness
of a treatment or intervention is free from the various biases that
beset medical research. The strongest evidence for therapeutic interventions
is provided by randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials
involving a homogeneous patient population and medical condition.
Although still fallible if not conducted properly, it is the highest
standard of proof that currently exists.
Currently the most effective evidence-based treatments
are behavioral interventions such as Applied
Behavior Analysis, the Lovaas
Program and Intensive
Behavioral Interventions. It should be noted though that these
interventions may still not suit all families due to the expense,
intensity and expertise required.
It should be noted that a lack of rigorous research
does not mean an intervention is ineffective. For example, small
studies have shown that developmental interventions such as Relationship
Development Intervention, Floortime
and the Developmental
Social-Pragmatic model provide benefits but more research is
required. Other interventions have had little or no independent
research done, but may rely on word-of-mouth by parents, or at worst,
deliberately misleading advertising that exploits vulnerable parents
by aiming to 'cure' Autism. Careful research is needed to investigate
many of the more recent interventions.
Typical interventions for Autism spectrum disorders
A typical Autism or Asperger's syndrome intervention
program may include:
• Social skills training for more successful interaction with others
• Cognitive behavioral therapy for managing emotions, obsessions
and repetitive routines
• Medication, for co-existing conditions such as depression and
• Occupational/physical therapy for sensory integration and motor
• Specialized speech therapy, to learn the “give and take” in normal
• Parent training and support, to teach parents behavioral techniques
to use at home.
Some parents explore biomedical
interventions with anecdotal evidence suggesting some find improvements
in various symptoms.
Many studies have been done on early behavioral
interventions. Most of these are single case with one to five participants.
The single case studies are usually about controlling non-core autistic
problem-behaviors like self-injury, aggression, noncompliance, stereotypes,
or spontaneous language. Packaged interventions are designed to
treat the entire syndrome e and have been found to be somewhat effective.
Unintended side effects of medication as an intervention have largely
been ignored in the literature about intervention programs for children
or adults with Autism, and there are claims that some interventions
are not ethical and do more harm than good. As with all types of
early intervention, it pays to research first then monitor the results
to see if medication is helping or not. Click here
for tips on selecting early intervention approaches.
Therapies for Autism Spectrum Disorders are
continually developing, and can present a bewildering array of approaches,
costs, benefits and waiting lists to parents who may still be reeling
from the impact of their child being diagnosed. Although parents
may feel a sense of urgency to find therapies quickly, in the long
term it is advisable to put time, research and discussion into your
choice. For more information, go to the Early
When interventions are too expensive
Do some research through books, the Internet and
Autism associations on the therapy, to see when it was developed,
how widely it is used and its evaluation from Autism specialists.
Unfortunately, therapies are often very expensive, bur remember
the most expensive ones may not be the best one for your child anyway.
Your local Autism association should be able to inform you on subsidies,
government treatments and other options available. While therapy
by specialists can make a huge difference, it is the ongoing therapy
provided by parents in the home which will make the most impact.
For more information, go to the Guide
to low cost intervention program page.
a list of early interventions
This website provides information on some of the
well known interventions. Please note this is not an exhaustive
list, and inclusion of an intervention does not guarantee its effectiveness.
Behavior Analysis (ABA)
program & Discrete Training Trials
Intensive Behavioral Intervention
Development Intervention (RDI)
Sensory integration interventions
Integration Training & Music therapy
Occupational, Auditory & Visual Therapy
and casein-free diet
Salicylate or Feingold diet
and digestive enzymes
salts and other treatments
alternative approaches to Autism interventions
Economist Thomas Sowell, author of The Einstein
Syndrome, is a major opponent of any form of ‘early intervention’
for children with certain characteristics (whom he considers wrongly
labeled autistic), i.e. those who appear to be intelligent, are
able to understand spoken language, and have several engineers or
musicians as close family members.
An approach for dealing with Autism which involves
reducing stressful situations, and not trying to force the autistic
child to change into someone he is not, is proposed in The Self-Help
Guide for Special Kids and Their Parents by Joan Matthews and
James Williams. James Williams is an autistic child who, with his
mother’s help, recounts much of his experiences through examples
of possible problems encountered by parents of autistic children.
The approach recommends, for example, not forcing the child into
a mainstreamed schooling situation too early; trying to understand
the problems caused by hypersensitivity and adapting to them; allowing
the child to cope with stress by stimming; helping the child develop
left-brain thinking; and so on.
The Institutes for The Achievement of Human Potential,
established in 1955, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving
the health and development of children who have some form of brain
injury, including children diagnosed with Autism. The IAHP claims
that many children show improvement with a home program consisting
of a healthy diet, clean air, and respiratory programs, without
the need for medication. The IAHP publishes the results of its treatment
for over 1700 children on its website.
Click here for the full
range of Asperger's and Autism fact sheets at www.autism-help.org
Click here to read a
personal story about early intervention
This autism fact sheet is licensed under the GNU
Free Documentation. It is derivative of an Autism and Asperger's
syndrome-related articles at http://en.wikipedia.org