Types of Therapy for Autism: 8 Therapies To Consider

Reviewed by:

February 22, 2022

Several types of therapy for autism are available to assist children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Autism is a spectrum disorder with a range of conditions including challenges with repetitive behaviors, social skills, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as maladaptive behaviors. Autism care is most effective when started early with young children, such as toddlers and newborns who are experiencing developmental delays. 

Failure to laugh, lack of engagement with others, unusual play skills, averse behaviors, and a refusal to respond to their name can be early signs of autism. After an individual has been diagnosed with autism, a range of techniques, including therapy, may help.

Current Autism Spectrum Disorder therapies aim to alleviate symptoms that impair daily living and quality of life. Since ASD affects each individual differently, children with ASD have varied strengths, limitations, and care needs. As a result, therapy approaches are frequently multidisciplinary and tailored to the child.

Types of therapy for autism

There are a number of therapies that can support children with autism. The therapy recommended per child may vary based on age, personality, needs and range of ability.

Autism may occur with a variety of mental health and physiological conditions. Cooperation among therapies and providers can prove beneficial in many of these situations.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

As the most commonly used therapy for children with autism, ABA develops social skills, improves language competency, and enhances good behavior using positive reinforcement techniques, meaningful rewards, and consequences. 

Following are some of the most common ABA objectives:

  • Increased social skills
  • Improved expressive and receptive communication effectiveness
  • Enhanced hygiene and self-care
  • Teaching cooperative behavior when playing with others
  • Maladaptive behavior reduction

The most complete autism intervention package is ABA therapy. ABA therapy is very important for children with autism as it addresses topics such as effective communication, skill imitation, cognitive abilities, self-regulation, recreational and interpersonal skills, behavioral management, and safety skills.

Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)

This methodology educates children with autism on how to form bonds with their parents and other family members. Psychological, social, and flexible thinking are all components of this family-based therapy. Children must also learn to cope with transitions, which can be particularly difficult. Parents undergo instruction and become their child's primary therapist as part of the RDI program.

Play therapy

Autism play therapy differs from play therapy designed for other illnesses. Therapists are far more prescriptive in this type of therapy for autism than for anxiety and other mental health conditions. Play therapy helps children with autism learn to interact with people in a way that they understand: playing. Autism affects how children interact with other children; for example, an individual with autism may concentrate primarily on one aspect of a toy and seldom engages in pretend play.

A therapist can help children engage with others by helping them widen their focus and approach. This type of therapy can bring a child out of a narrow play scope and into a world of collaborative experiences and relationships. Kids explore their surroundings, feelings, and relationships by developing their interests.

Equestrian therapy

Often known as therapeutic horseback riding, Equestrian Therapy allows children with autism to ride horses in a safe and non-threatening environment. The therapist is in charge of both the horse and the child. According to research, therapeutic horseback riding improves social and communication skills, while reducing irritability and hyperactivity.

Speech therapy

People with autism may benefit from speech therapy; however, it isn't always the most effective strategy as it may not be possible for individuals who suffer from severe autism to participate. Higher-functioning individuals may benefit most from speech therapy, and it might assist children and adults with ASD in overcoming social isolation. 

Sometimes, an individual with autism may have a comorbid diagnosis that requires speech therapy. In these circumstances, It can be beneficial to use a therapy type that treats both autism and the health condition itself. Speech and language therapists or other professionals can provide these treatments.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a common type of talk therapy where a mental health counselor works with individuals in a select number of sessions, which can last over 8-12 weeks, depending on the child. Therapists are constantly refining the technique to make it more consistently effective in dealing with anxiety and other issues.

Music therapy

Music may be able to assist individuals with autism in relating to their own and others' emotions. Music therapy involves working with a therapist while listening to music to help enhance emotional connections. 

Sensory integration

Autism can affect how sensory information is processed which may result in sensory over-stimulation or under-stimulation. Sensory input can manifest itself in actions that are difficult to explain. People with ASD can use sensory integration to control sensory input and help them better manage sensory overload.

The importance of providing therapy to children with autism

Autism affects around one out of every 44 children. This high prevalence has helped raise autism awareness among different communities and expand autism therapy programs. There are several advantages to autism therapy services, and these advantages can last a lifetime.

Children with early signs of autism benefit greatly from starting therapy within the first year, according to a new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. This is because the brain develops quickly at this age. According to researchers, children receiving therapy and care at the age of twelve months have fewer signs of autism involving social communication or repeated actions than older children who did not participate in therapy.

Modes of autism therapy

Some families find that family counseling can help them deal with challenges and may assist in dealing with new issues as they arise. As a result, they may also gain a better understanding of ASD and techniques to better assist their child.

Parents of children with autism may benefit from couple counseling to improve their bond as well as build their perseverance, honing their abilities to strengthen family relations.

Group therapy also has the potential to link parents with others who have had similar experiences. According to one research study, parents of children with ASD were less stressed and felt more emboldened after participation.

Regardless of the type of therapy, experts generally advise that children begin therapy as quickly as possible upon diagnosis since early intervention leads to better outcomes. 

Songbird therapy is a technology-enabled provider setting a higher standard for children’s autism care. With a deeply passionate team and innovative technology, we’re building a world where every child can access world-class care at home, uniquely tailored to them.