Parent Guide to Therapies for ASD: FAQs

Parent Guide to Therapies for ASD: FAQs

What is the Guide for?

The Guide is designed to offer you reliable information about a wide range of therapies and interventions for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Each short therapy guide:

  • describes a particular therapy and the idea behind its approach
  • assesses the research that supports the therapy, and tells you if there's no reliable research
  • estimates the time and costs involved in using the therapy.

How do I use the Guide?

To use the Guide, you can browse by therapy type.

Why are the treatments categorised the way that they are?

We have used categories that we think will be most helpful as you try to understand different autism spectrum disorder (ASD) therapies. Our categories also reflect the categories you're most likely to come across as you look for interventions for your child.

But it's important to bear in mind that there are many different treatments or interventions for ASD. Different people classify them in different ways.

Read our article on types of interventions for children with ASD for more information about categories.

How many therapies are covered in the Guide? How many exist?

The Guide currently covers more than 50 therapies for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We are adding to the Guide all the time. Our selection of therapies is based on the most commonly mentioned therapies.

A search of the internet, books, magazines, autism associations and other materials reveals at least 400 interventions that claim to help children with ASD. Generally, there's little reliable research evidence to support the effectiveness of many of these interventions.

Read our article on types of interventions for children with ASD for an overview of ASD therapies.

Why does the Guide cover only a selection of therapies?

The Guide is a work in progress. We're developing and adding new therapies all the time. Each short therapy guide takes time as we search for information and give the therapy a rating, based on the conclusions of scientific research.

What is the Guide based on?

Our classification of different therapies and other background information is based on a 2011 report to the Australian Government, prepared by four Australian experts in autism spectrum disorder (ASD): Dr Jacqueline Roberts, Professor Margot Prior, Sylvia Rodger and Katrina Williams. The report identified common therapies and practices used in Australia.

Why does the Guide focus on evidence from scientific research?

Scientific research provides the best and most reliable evidence of whether therapies really work. This kind of research is usually reported in scientific journals and textbooks, which might be hard or time-consuming for parents to research by themselves.

Read more about how ASD interventions are researched and tested.

What is the 'research rating' in each short therapy guide based on?

Each short therapy guide offers a research rating of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) therapy. These are the ratings:

  • Established: research shows positive effects.
  • Promising: some research shows positive effects, but more research is needed.
  • Yet to be determined: not enough research is available.
  • Ineffective/harmful: research shows this approach is ineffective or can be harmful.
  • Unrateable: not yet reviewed by our research sources.

We aim to give you a sense of how much research support there is for a therapy so you have an unbiased measure of the therapy's effectiveness. We base the rating for each therapy on the level (or lack) of scientific evidence that supports the therapy.

Our rating system is based on the rating system used by the National Standards Project (National Autism Center, 2015). Where needed, we also use conclusions from the Cochrane Collaboration. These two sources have carefully weighed up many ASD therapies, based on very strict criteria for quality and quantity of research and consistency of findings.

This allows us to draw reliable conclusions about the effectiveness of each therapy, based on how much evidence there is to support it. When a therapy hasn't yet been systematically reviewed by our research sources, it's marked as 'Unrateable'.

Why don't you use evidence from people's experience in your research ratings?

Evidence from people's experience - for example, from people who are putting therapies into practice or parents who are using therapies - isn't always reliable. This is because it can be biased by people's ideas, beliefs and values. With our research ratings, we aim to give you a sense of how much unbiased research supports the effectiveness of various therapies.

How is the Guide kept up to date?

Raising Children Network has a program of ongoing review and maintenance of all of its content. This program includes our autism spectrum disorder (ASD) therapy guides. This means we regularly look at our content in the light of newly published and relevant research. Also, we regularly engage experts to review content on the site relevant to their expertise.