Making decisions about interventions for your loved one 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 individuals with autism. 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 autism, including understanding your loved one's unique strengths and needs and what the research says about effective interventions for autism. Each person with autism is unique. Evidence-based interventions are available and recommended. What works for one family or one individual will not work the same for everyone. Educate yourself about effective interventions for autism by reading books, accessing research articles, and accessing the information and websites below that provide summaries of these interventions.
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 the services 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 providers. 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, teacher, or therapist. For example, if you would like your child to learn how to play with other children there could be an opportunity with a friend in your neighborhood or from your work who has 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 family's 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/research 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 autism. 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. Remember community-based services 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 toward 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.
The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder (2014) has reviewed many evidence-based practices and interventions. You can find their report here.