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 (natural supports) 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.
Visit our Best Practices in Autism Treatment for additional information and resources
2. Identify goals and priorities for your child and family. 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?
- Different therapists and professionals provide services in different ways. For example, some therapy is provided in a clinic setting with the child being the primary focus of the intervention and a parent observing or waiting in the waiting room. Some therapy is provided in a natural setting, such as a home, and may involve a more hands on approach from parents and the therapist. Each family must determine what is the best fit for their child and 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.
What is a natural support?
Natural supports are those resources you access in your community that are not specifically related to your child's disability. Natural supports are resources that are available as a result of relationships with family, friends, and others in the community or daily routines.
The Natural Supports toolkit provides additional information about natural supports and ideas for ways you and your family can increase your access to natural supports. This toolkit was developed by Dee Blose and is shared with her permission.
Download Natural Supports Toolkit
Sensory friendly events are social opportunities that are specifically designed with lower sensory demands in the place. They can be wonderful opportunities for your loved one with ASD and/or your entire family to experience activities and places you may not typically go to because the sensory demands are too high.
Now you may be asking yourself, “What is a sensory demand?” A sensory demand refers to any type of sensory input (taste, touch, sight, sound, smell) that your body senses and your brain tries to interpret. Individuals on the autism spectrum may be hyper-reactive or hypo-reactive to certain types of sensory input, and some individuals may have an increased interest in a specific form of sensory input. Every person is different, and everyone’s reaction to sensory input will be different as well.
While every sensory friendly event is unique, there tend to be some common themes. Typical sensory adjustments will include modifying the lighting, making visual displays “less busy” or more predictable, eliminating specific sounds, lowering sound volume, etc. Organizers may also label certain areas with sensory features such as “low light” or “loud area.” The pace of the event is typically slower, the social rules are a bit more relaxed, and individuals and groups usually have more freedom to explore rather than follow a tight schedule.
Sensory friendly activities can be a helpful tool for you to see how your child interacts with a certain environment or if he/she enjoys a specific activity. If this is a place or activity that your child enjoys, you can use sensory friendly events to help build skills and stamina to help your loved one attend a place or event during regular business hours.
To make a plan for going out in the community for a sensory friendly event, please use our “Going Out in the Community” Toolkit that is available in this section.