Best Practice

Linking parents and providers to current research and best practices regarding the causes and treatment of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is a priority of the Oklahoma Autism Network.  Research and best practices information is important to making decisions and maintaining a solid knowledge and understanding of autism spectrum disorders including signs and symptoms, screening and diagnostic procedures, core challenge areas for skill development, intervention methodologies, and assessment, implementation and evaluation of interventions.  The medical community, professional organizations, and federal laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA, 2004) have charged and require educational and medical professionals to use research and evidence based practices.  

Evidence based practice is the use of the most current available research, the professional's clinical experience and the client's (family and individual) values.   When evidence or research is not available, families and professionals together should determine the best possible outcomes and measure the effectiveness of the intervention that is being provided.  The information within this section is intended to assist professionals and families in making decisions using the best information that is currently available on ASD.  

Understanding research bias is important to evaluating the usefulness of the information provided on a specific topic.  Consider the following: 

The best research will be in professional journals.  Look for journals in the fields of medicine, psychology, psychiatry, speech/language pathology, early childhood education, special education, and physical and occupational therapy.  You can access a university library to explore these journals or many journals are also available online now by entering the journal name.  Look for journals that are peer-reviewed, requiring articles to be submitted and reviewed by a credible group of individuals before being printed in the journal.  

When reading a study, look to see who is funding the project.  Caution research that is being funded by an organization or company who will benefit either financially or by professional reputation from the results of an intervention.

Look for independent research studies conducted by experts who have nothing to gain (or lose) by the results of the study.  Their research is strictly objective.

Look for current research studies.  If you find a study more than five years old, try to find out if anything new has been published. Up-to-date research will be the most valid.

Caution information posted on ".com" websites. Anyone can create a website and post information about treatment for children.  Find out who sponsors the webpage and if they gain anything by posting faulty evidence.

Making decisions about interventions for your child can be a daunting task.  The amount of information that is available can be overwhelming and at times confusing because there are so many options for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  Below are several guidelines to assist you as a parent or caregiver in making decisions about what interventions you will access for your child. 

It is important to remember that helping your child is not limited to accessing paid, professional services.  Professional services and specific therapies are an important part of effective interventions for your child.  However, many resources in your community can also assist your child and your family in your journey. 

We hope these guidelines assist you as you make decisions for your child.

1.  Educate yourself about ASD, including understanding your child’s unique strengths and needs and what the research says about effective interventions for ASD.

 Each person with ASD is unique.  Seek to understand your child’s unique needs and to access interventions that address those needs.   Educate yourself about effective interventions for ASD by reading books, accessing research articles, and accessing the information and websites below that provide summaries of these interventions.

Best Practice in Autism Treatment          

Association for Science in Autism Treatment

2.  Identify goals and priorities for your child

As parents and caregivers it is important for you to identify goals for your child that are important to you, your child, and your family.  Professionals and educators will set goals for your child when you access their services; however it is critical that you as a parent identify goals as well.  Write these goals down, and assure that they are included in any service your child accesses. 

3.  Decide who is on your child’s team.

Your child’s team should include a variety of people, not just paid supports.  Many people can contribute to your child’s success.  Once you have identified your child’s goals, consider who can help your child and family achieve those goals.  It may be a family member, friend, colleague, or a therapist.  For example, if you would like your child to learn how to play with other children there could be opportunity with a friend in your neighborhood or from your work with a child of a similar age. 

4.  Identify natural resources that may assist your child and family in achieving your goals.

Natural resources include supports and services that are available to anyone in your community. Examples of resources that may benefit your child or family can include going to the YMCA, participating in boy scouts or girl scouts, or having your next door neighbor babysit  your child.

5. Decide which specific interventions you will access for your child.  An intervention should be one that is appropriate for your child’s unique needs and meets the values and needs of your family.  Below are some questions to consider when making decisions about which specific intervention to access:

  •   Is the treatment approach a good fit for my child?  For my family?
  •   Is the treatment appropriate for my child’s age and abilities?
  •   How will it fit into our child and families life?  If it requires many hours a week of therapy, how will that work for the family       overall, including meeting the needs of siblings?
  •   Is there scientific evidence to show that the intervention is effective?

6.  Consider financial resources and how you will pay for interventions.

Most families have some limitations on the amount of financial resources available to pay for services for their child with ASD.  Educate yourself about the financial resources available to you such as what is available through your private insurance policy, state funded programs, or your child’s educational program.  Also remember community-based services that may be lower cost but beneficial for your child and family.  Check out our financial resources page to learn more.   

7.  Regularly monitor your child’s progress towards the goals you have identified.

It is critical that you as a parent monitor your child’s progress to help you make decisions about their intervention plan.  For example, if your child is getting a certain type of therapy, identify some things you would like to see change as a result of that therapy.  Monitor your child’s progress towards those goals and if you don’t see changes in a few months talk with the therapist about how to make changes to the current intervention.  You can also monitor things you are doing at home.  For example, if you decide to try a new diet for your child identify two or three changes you would like to see as a result of the diet change.  Regularly monitor your child’s progress towards those goals to determine if the diet is working or if you need to make changes.  Consult a professional if needed to assist you.  It is important to monitor your child’s progress so you don’t spend precious resources (time, energy, money) on something that isn’t helping your child achieve the goals you have identified.

Autism Focused Intervention Resources & Modules (AFIRM):  National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Autism Internet Modules (AIM):  Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence

ASD Toddler Initiative:  Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Autism Navigator:  Autism Institute at the Florida State University College of Medicine

EBP Case Studies: Center on Secondary Education for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder