This page includes the following information:
- What is an intervention?
- Who provides autism interventions?
- Autism interventions in Australia
- What happens if I choose not to treat my child or not access intervention services?
What is an Intervention?
Intervention is a word used to describe specific strategies or therapy activities undertaken to improve or manage those characteristics of autism that impact on a child’s ability to function well in their daily lives.
Autism is a life-long, neurodevelopmental condition that cannot be cured. Interventions exist however that can impact on how well a child with autism functions or manages within the constraints of the condition.
Interventions are typically accessed following assessment to confirm an autism diagnosis. The following diagram explains the process of determining diagnosis and then choosing and trialing an intervention.
Autism Interventions can be provided by speech therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists and sometimes special needs educators or other related and specially trained health professionals.
An intervention may involve parents and carers undergoing training to use a strategy or tool, or it may be regular contact with a therapist. Therapy usually requires regular visits to a clinic, or your therapist may conduct a home or school visit. They mostly occur frequently, for example every day, week or fortnight. Less frequent therapist contact usually requires parents, carers and other people in close contact with the child to practice and reinforce strategies at home and in other settings.
Evidence suggests that some therapies are more effective when undertaken for at least 15-20 hours per week.
The interventions below are evidence-based, meaning that research has proven them to be effective for some children in certain settings. The interventions below are also known to be available in Australia. Check with your state-based autism support agency to see if your preferred intervention is available in your area. Consider contacting approved providers directly and ask them about their services. They are listed on FaHCSIA’s list of approved service providers.
Approved autism service providers typically have undergraduate education/training as occupational therapists, speech therapists, psychologists, social workers or special needs educators. Ask if they are specifically trained in one or more of the interventions listed here. They may use different elements of one or a number of interventions, and tailor their service according to your child’s needs. It’s always best to ask them some questions so that you can be sure that you understand the interventions, their risks, benefits, and what is involved.
The interventions below are categorised as per the Early Intervention for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Guidelines for Good Practice (Roberts & Prior, 2012). These categories attempt to describe the type of intervention on offer, for example, whether the intervention involves parent training or involves the child attending therapy, or whether the intervention addresses all characteristics of autism or just a few.Click on each intervention to find out more about what each intervention offers and useful information about each service including time commitment required, cost of services, typical settings, and positive and negative features of each.
Family-based including parent training
Hanen ‘More Than Words’
Preschoolers with autism – manualised parent training program
Triple P – stepping stones adaptation
Therapies not specific to autism, but which may benefit children with autism
Circles of Support
Service based treatments specific to autism
SERVAM – Sensory Considerations, environmental management, routines and planned change, visual supports, autism friendly communication, Motivation
Comprehensive programs, combined approaches and developmental approaches
Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention (EIBI)
Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)
SCERTS – social communication, emotional regulation and transactional support
DIR/ Floortime approach
RDI – Relationships Developmental Intervention
The P.L.A.Y project – Play and Language for Autistic youngsters
As autism affects children differently, it is not possible to say whether your child will regress (go backwards), stay the same, or continue to gradually improve without intervention. What we do know is that early intervention may help your child develop necessary skills for living, including playing, interacting with family and friends, undertaking hygiene and self care tasks, and participating in school or preschool activities with their peers. There is no physical or psychological risk to not choosing an intervention, however the benefits of trialing interventions that are evidence-based and tailored to your child’s needs are well worth considering.
Click here to return to the questionnaire for help making decisions about interventions for your child.
- First, M. 1994, Quick Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria from DSM-IV, American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC
- First, M. 2008, Autism and Other Pervasive Developmental Disorders Conference (February 3-5, 2008), accessed online 11 September 2010.
- Green, V. Pituch, K. Itchon, J. Choi, A. O’Reilly, M. & Sigafoos, J. 2006, Internet survey of treatments used by parents of children with autism, Research in Developmental Disabilities, 27,1.
- Mesibov, G. & Shea, V. 2010, Evidence-Based Practices and Autism, Autism, published online 27 September 2010.
- National Autism Center, 2009, The National Autism Center’s National Standards Report http://www.nationalautismcenter.org/pdf/NAC%20Standards%20Report.pdf
- O’Reilly, B. & Smith, S. 2008, Australian Autism Handbook: The essential resource guide for autism spectrum disorders, Jane Curry Publishing, Edgecliff, NSW.
- Prior, M. & Roberts, J. (2012), Early Intervention for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders: “Guidelines for Good Practice” 2012. (Link http://www.fahcsia.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/11_2012/early_intervention_practice_guidlines.pdf)
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- Valentine, K. Rajkovic, M. Dinning, B. & Thompson, D. 2010, Occasional Paper No. 35 Post-diagnosis support for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, their families and carers, social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales.
- Warren, Z. McPheeters, M., Sathe, N. Foss-Feig, J. Glasser, A. Veenstra-VanderWeele, J. 2011, A systematic review of early intensive intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorders, Pediatrics, 127,5.
- Warren, Z. Veenstra-VanderWeele, J. Stone, W. Bruzek, J. Nahmias, A. Foss-Feig J. Jerome, R. Krishnaswami, S. Sathe, N. Glasser, A. Surawicz, T. & McPheeters, M. 2011, Therapies for children with autism spectrum disorders. Comparative Effectiveness Review No. 26.