Autism Supports: Where Do I Start?

There are many different types of therapy that can help children with autism. They can work on different parts of their development.

Here are some of the most common examples:
  • Behavioral Intervention - A therapist helps to encourage positive behaviors and discourage unwanted ones. Desired behaviors are broken down into small tasks to build skills.
  • Developmental Intervention- A therapist uses relationship and the child's interests to build the areas of development that a child needs help with. These include things like relating and communicating or logical thinking.
  • Speech and Language Therapy —A therapist (sometimes called an SLP, or Speech and Language Pathologist) helps with communication skills at all levels.  These include talking, understanding others, and also non-verbal ways to communicate.
  • Physical Therapy (PT) —A therapist works with your child to improve muscle strength, coordination, and movement.
  • Occupational Therapy (OT) — A therapist uses movement to help your child to develop the motor, cognitive and emotional skills they need for the things they do. A child's "occupations" include play, self-care (like eating and dressing), social engagement, and eventually academic activities like writing.
  • Sensory Integration -This is a part of OT where kids learn to experience and process sensory information (sounds, tastes, touch, etc.) in a way that doesn't upset them.

Any of these may be helpful to your child. It depends on their unique mix of challenges and strengths. For some children, it may make sense to start with one and switch to another.  Some children may benefit from a team approach where therapists work on their individual goals but communicate as a team to work on common, big picture goals.

To make an informed decision, be sure to do your homework:
  1. Keep your child top of mind. As we start to dive into the world of autism, it’s easy to get swept up in prescribed recommendations based on diagnosis. I urge you to remember you are searching for supports for your individual child and to keep his or her individual needs in mind.
  2. Research and ask questions! Make an appointment for an informational phone call or meeting. Go to the office and see how you feel. Ask questions about the process and about communication with family.
  3. Learn from other parents and from adults with autism. Although others’ experiences are not yours or your child’s, you may find some common ground. But even if you don’t, you’ll likely learn something!
  4. As always, follow your gut as a parent. Check in with yourself and with your child, reflect on goals, and move forward as makes the most sense in that moment in time.
Check out our Autism Guide for more!What to Do If Your Child Has Autism