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 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 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 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.

Community Autism Specialists

Social Thinking® Groups at Social Champaign

Small groups of all ages from elementary school, middle school, high school, and college/young adult are learning to understand the underlying concepts beneath social skills with Social Thinking®

Does your student get stuck on one topic? Would you like to see them be more flexible? Social Thinking® is an exciting approach to help people with Asperger’s, High Functioning Autism, PDD-NOS, ADHD, and other related social learning challenges develop “social smarts” by becoming “Social Thinkers.” Social Thinking® uses a cognitive behavioral approach and was developed by Michelle Garcia Winner to teach the social cause and effect of “expected”and “unexpected” behaviors. Social Thinking® creatively and effectively teaches kids perspective taking, social cognition, and social communication. If interested, please contact Joan Storey Gorsuch, B.F.A., M.Ed., Social Thinking® Mentor for placement in a social group, which are formed by age and perspective taking level. Joan completed the Mentor Training program directly with Michelle Garcia Winner at her clinic in San Jose, California.

Ongoing groups for a variety of ages from first grade to young adult.

Contact: Joan Storey Gorsuch
jgorsuch@j.s.gorsuch@gmail.com 217-766-8807

Developmental Services Center

DSC serves approximately 1,200 children and adults with developmental disabilities, such as epilepsy, cerebral palsy, autism, cognitive disabilities, Down syndrome, or other disabling conditions. Individuals seeking services may experience functional or environmental challenges that require extra support to live more independently.  For more information about the services DSC can offer to individuals and families with ASD you can reach them at (217) 356-9176 or visit their website http://www.dsc-illinois.org/welcome.html

One service that may be especially helpful to children with autism is the P.L.A.Y Project, a program that supports with play and language skills in children 18 months to 6 years of age.  This program is implemented in the home and no formal diagnosis is needed, just a delay in language and play skills.

Contact: Heather Johnson at  217-356-9176 Ext 314 or hjohnson@dsc-illinois.org

Behavioral Perspectives

Behavioral Perspectives (ABA) services assist parents throughout Champaign, Illinois and surrounding areas. Our mission is to embrace teamwork to promote positive outcomes.

Contact 1-888-308-3728 or email bpiaba.com.

The Place for Children with Autism

Provides APA therapy in a preschool-like setting for ages 2-6. Centers provide: a pres-school-like learning environement; structured days from 8:30AM-3:30PM with optional extended hours; individualized lessons based on the needs of each child; organized group, social, and extracurricular activities; BCBA on-site; RBT credentialed and Safety Care trained staff.

Lincoln Square Mall
301 S. Vine Street, unit 10
Urbana, IL 6180

Contact (224) 436-0788 or info@theplaceforchildrenwithautism.com or https://theplaceforchildrenwithautism.com/

Total Spectrum

In-home and center-based ABA services for children with autism spectrum disorder.

Contact (844) 263-1613 or http://www.totalspectrumcare.com/

Continuum Behavioral Health

Continuum Behavioral Health addresses the needs of those who present with signs or symptoms associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder and related developmental disabilities. We are unique in our ability to provide a seamless continuum of care starting with diagnosis and extending through assessment and treatment.

We are a team of highly trained specialists dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for individuals and families.  We offer a variety of behavioral and educational services in the home, school and community.  We will configure a program specifically designed for your child with your goals, objectives and budget in mind.  Contact us at:  https://www.autismspectrumalliance.com/ or 630 286-0026.

Kevin Elliot Counseling

The Kevin Elliot Counseling group offers a wide variety of therapeutic services and groups to those in need, including individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.  Paige Spangler and Staci Poe both have been recommended by members of the community.

Prairie Wind Speech, Inc.

Tracy Gunderson MS, CCC-SLP
Cheryl Yepez MA, CCC-SLP
1803 Woodfield Dr. Savoy, IL

Recreation: Larkin’s Place at the YMCA, Champaign Urbana Special Recreation (CUSR), Swimable, and Super Star Yoga

Programming designed to support children at all developmental level and their families.  YMCA and CUSR have a variety of recreational programming.  Simable is a group that provides adaptive swim lessons and Super Star Yoga is a monthly yoga class for children with special needs provided by Daily Bread Yoga.

YMCA: Shauna Beyer, M.S. CCC-SLP, Larkin’s Place Director (Shauna@sf-ymca.net) or at (217) 359-9622

CUSR: http://www.cuspecialrecreation.com/

Swimable: http://www.swimable.org/

Superstar Yoga: Rachel at dailybreadyoga@gmail.com

Family Matters: Parent Training and Education Center

The mission of the Family Matters Parent Training and Information Center is to build upon families’ strengths, empower parents and professionals to achieve the strongest possible outcomes for students with disabilities, and to enhance the quality of life for children and young adults with disabilities.

Contact: FMPTIC serves 94 Illinois counties (outside of the Chicago area); 95% funded by the U.S. Department of Education with additional support from ARC Community Support Systems. Their Toll Free number is (866)-436-7842

Respite Program for Adopted Children

The Adoption Preservation program at Lutheran Social Services of Illinois wants to inform families with adopted children of the Respite program. The program is open to families with an actively open adoption preservation case at Lutheran Social Services. To be eligible for respite services, the family must currently be receiving therapeutic services and the family has to have obtained guardianship or adoption through the Department of Children and Family Services. Parents must identify their own respite provider. Lutheran Social Services of Illinois provides a stipend for the provider at an over-night rate. If you are interested, contact your therapist at Lutheran Social Services to discuss eligibility.

Contact: Steve Holcomb, 217-671-0300 x214  Service Coordinator

University of Illinois Psychological Services Center

Provides autism diagnostic assessments.

Contact: Autism clinic at (217)300-6773 or (217) 333-0041

610 E. John Street, Champaign, IL