What are the best interventions for children with ASD?

This is a tricky question to answer.  Individuals with ASD are complex and unique so finding ways to best support them depends on the individual and their goals.  Below, we’ve outlined a few interventions that you would want to be familiar with.  On our “Community Autism Specialists” page we have contact information for area resources.  Support groups are another great way to learn about what works for families.  Here is a complete report on Evidence-Based Practices for Children, Youth, and Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

ABA

ABA is short for Applied Behavior Analysis.  ABA breaks down complex tasks into small pieces and then individuals (usually children) are taught one small piece at a time.  When a child is successful they get rewards.  Over time, the therapist teaches more complex skills and with fewer rewards (ABA needs to be implemented with an ABA therapist).  This intervention has been the study of a lot of research and is typically considered to be effective.  We have several books on ABA in our library.

Floortime

Floortime is a strategy in which parents and professionals play with young children at their level and in doing so help expand their communication and social skills.  This approach, developed by Dr. Greenspan, starts with following the child’s lead and then building upon that to expand the child’s world.  Compared to ABA, this approach is more child centered and naturalistic but it may be less successful for teaching concrete tasks.  The P.L.A.Y project offers Floortime and you can learn more about Floortime with books and DVDs from our library.

PECS

PECS is short for picture exchange system.  It is one of the most common communication interventions used with children with ASD especially those with significant communication impairments.  Children with ASD often have difficulty communicating their basic wants and needs.  This intervention focuses on giving them a tool (pictures) to communicate.  Over time the goal is to use the pictures to exchange for items, build sentences, and answer questions.  We have several books on PECS in our library and we can make PECS pictures for you in our resource room.

Social Narratives

Social narratives help teach learners about social relationships, social thinking, and what to expect in different social situations.  We can create social narratives for your child/student’s individual needs.  We also have books on how to create and use social narratives.

The Incredible 5-Point Scale

The Incredible 5-Point Scale is a visual strategy that helps individuals with autism learn about regulating emotions.  Sometimes children with ASD seem to go from calm to meltdown very quickly.  This tool helps them to understand their emotions and put them in perspective.  It is also used to teach strategies for managing difficult emotions.  We can make many adaptations of the 5-Point scale in the resource room and have books on how to implement the strategy.

We didn’t want to overwhelm you so this is a pretty short list.  From here, we would recommend browsing the intervention books in our library (either online or in person).  There are also some great websites that give more comprehensive information about interventions.  Autism Speaks has a nice summaries of a variety of different supports and videos so you can see them in action.  Autism Internet Modules provides online training for learning many interventions available.  They focus on evidence based interventions so their list of interventions also serves a great for what are best practices (not just common practices).

Medical Interventions

There are no medications that have been specifically developed for individuals with ASD, however, some medications are often prescribed to help children (and adults) focus, manage emotions, and learn better as well as manage other challenges individuals with ASD may face (like difficulties sleeping or irritable bowel syndrome).  If you’re considering medical options the free “Medication Decision Aid Tool Kit” from Autism Speaks may be useful or the book Taking the Mystery Out of Medications in Autism/Asperger Syndromes.

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