Many families that come to my office for an appointment with an existing diagnosis tell me that they received a “general autism spectrum diagnosis” and the clinician did not really discuss treatment options beyond the diagnosis. If this is actually the case, then it is frustrating to hear. I can only imagine the frustration that these families must be experiencing: so many questions and so few answers. Indeed, I often spend my time calming parents down and gaining their trust as an advocate and ally for them who is ready to give very specific suggestions based on their child’s specific developmental profile. For the families that do not have the opportunity to be seen in our clinic or who are going to be making an appointment in the near future, I thought I would share what the science says you should do following your child’s autism diagnosis. I will reserve my thoughts on alternative treatments that are not based on the science for a future blog posting. For now, I prefer to guide my families toward treatments that science supports as effective. So here are the main starting points for treatment following autism diagnosis that are based on the National Science Council Research Report:
1) 20-25 hours per week of intervention
2) With a 1:1 or 1:2 teacher to child ratio
3) That is engaging
4) Has a strategic direction
5) And starts early (Between the ages of 18 months to 6 years)
Typically these interventions (which count toward the 20-25 hours per week) include:
- Special Education (includes Early On or Early Childhood Developmental Delay/Therapeutic Preschool Programs)
- Speech and Language Therapy and
- Occupational Therapy
- Intensive behavioral/developmental interventions of either the Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) or Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-Based (D.I.R./Floortime) types are essential!
Two highly recommended websites:
Another nice resource for what can be done during the First 100 Days following diagnosis can be found here.
Dr. Mark Bowers is a Licensed Pediatric Psychologist and Autism/Anxiety expert at the Ann Arbor Center for Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
© 2009 Mark Bowers, Ph.D.