Choosing Treatment for Autistic Children

It would be simple if there was a customary treatment for all children with autism disorder, but unlike some disorders, for instance, diabetes, there is no ‘best treatment. Most experts agree on two points: the earlier the intervention, the more effective, and most children with autism do well in programs that are structured and tailored to their needs.

Many different options are available for treatment for a child with autism. Before you make any decision, you should gather all the information that you can about each of them. Compare them with your childs and your familys needs. Most public and private schools encourage you to visit and observe their programs as you investigate options.
The Autism Society of America suggests that you ask yourself the following questions about each program to help you narrow your choices.

    • Will this treatment hurt my child?
    • Is there any scientific proof that the treatment works?
    • How will it affect my family if the treatment fails?
    • How does the program assess its results?
    • How will the treatment work with the rest of my childs program?

In addition, you may ask the following questions as well:

    • Has the program been successful for other children?
    • Do many children from this program go on to regular school settings?
    • What is the experience of staff members in working with children with autism?
    • Are there daily routines and schedules?
    • Will my child receive the individual attention that he needs?
    • How do you choose tasks and rewards for each child?
    • How do you measure progress?
    • Is the program designed to keep distraction to a minimum?
    • Will the program help me to continue the therapy at home?
    • How much does it cost, both in time and money?

An effective program will:
• Take your childs interests into account and build on them
• Have a regular, predictable schedule
• Engage the childs attention with highly structured activities
• Teach tasks as a series of steps
• Provide reinforcement and reward for appropriate behavior
• Involve parents in designing and delivering therapy
• Teach early communication and social interaction skills
• Begin before age 3 if possible

After the age of 3, an effective program will:

• usually be school-based
• incorporate an individualized education plan
• provide structure and a regular, predictable schedule
• include some integration with the regular school program if feasible

In elementary school, look for a program that:

• is individualized to your childs needs and interests
• encourages your child to grow in his areas of strength
• offers a mix of inclusion in regular classrooms and special instruction
• include teaching social skills
• teach the child how to manage distractions and organize tasks

By middle and high school, your childs learning should:

• include transition planning by age 14
• address practical matters like work, recreation and community living
• teach practical skills like taking public transportation, job-seeking skills