Autism Spectrum Therapies: An Insight

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Therapies for Autism

Autism spectrum therapies vary in intensity and methodology, but all can be used from infancy through childhood and into adulthood. Whether or not a particular therapy will work for your child can only be determined by trying it. However, your health care professional will help you determine which ones might be most effective for your situation. A good place to start is with speech and language therapy.

Speech and Language Therapy

Communication is key because many autistic children experience great difficulty and frustration trying to communicate basic needs and wants to their parents or siblings. In speech therapy, a child may learn the rules of language and how to correctly pronounce a word, or they may work on sign language skills and use pictures to convey their needs.

Speech and language therapists can be accessed through your pediatrician, and typically the first step is for your child’s hearing to be tested. This is to find out whether the speech problem is caused by some developmental delay or if the child simply can’t hear to mimic sounds around them. Once the hearing is found to be normal, the therapist will set goals for your child in the areas of speech and language and will not only spend time each week with your child working on these goals but will also help you learn how to work with your child at home.

Play Therapy

Play therapy is one of the most popular autism spectrum therapies and it allows a child to “act out” situations giving them the opportunity to learn how to react to others, form relationships, and build on the things in which they are already interested in.

An autistic child in play therapy has the opportunity to choose the type of play they want to participate in. If a girl enjoys playing with dolls, the adult can use them as a springboard to model appropriate behavior in different situations. For example, if the girl “acts out” or throws a tantrum during a session, the adult can use the doll to show the girl how she could have reacted.

Art Therapy

Art therapy is a great way to reach an autistic child who is non-verbal, whose temperament is better suited to hands-on activity, or who loves to create art. A therapist will help the child to “target imagination/abstract thinking deficits, sensory regulation and integration, emotions/self-expression, developmental growth, recreation/leisure skills, and visual-spatial deficits.” (Martin, 2007)

Successful art therapy will help autistic children to produce art that says something about themselves, makes them feel better, or helps them to communicate with others.

Non-verbal autistic children can use art to communicate with people. In this way, art can be essential to their daily lives as well as a way to let the world know how they are feeling.

Early Intervention

Early intervention will maximize the benefits of autism spectrum therapies. The sooner you can begin to help your autistic child, the more help you will be able to provide. This means that treating an autistic child with the varied therapies available can help that child to live a semi-normal life in society. What was considered early intervention in the late 1990s is no longer the case. Back then, autism spectrum disorders were not diagnosed until the age of 3 or 4. Now, in 2010, early diagnosis can mean as young as 18 months of age which can help your child meet milestones that would otherwise be missed.


Mehl-Madrona, M.D.,Ph.D., “Forum on Alternative and Innovative Therapies.” 2008.

Martin, Nicole. “Art Therapy and Autism.” 2007.