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An Overview on The Most Common Types of Therapy for ASD

Autism is a complex disorder that can be approached through various types of therapy, each offering unique benefits for individuals on the spectrum.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that impairs social communication, social interaction, and behaviour. It also comes with atypical patterns of behaviour and interest. The characteristics of the impairment in their social communication and interaction includes a lack of social and emotional reciprocity, such as challenges in joint attention, abnormal social approach and response, conversational difficulties, reduced sharing of emotions, interests, and affect (Weitlauf et al., 2014). People with ASD have difficulties in nonverbal communication, including abnormal eye contact, limited use of gestures, and facial expressions in social situations, and struggles to comprehend nonverbal communication (Weitlauf et al., 2014). They also difficulties in creating and maintaining relationships, such as reduced interest in peers, challenges in joining play, and difficulty adjusting behaviour to social contexts (Weitlauf et al., 2014). Although there is no cure for ASD, there are many therapies available to help individuals with ASD manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life. This article will provide an overview of the most common types of therapy for ASD.

The first common type of therapy is Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). ABA is a type of therapy that focuses on teaching positive behaviours and reducing negative behaviours through reinforcement and repetition. ABA is based on the principles of behaviourism and uses data collection and analysis to measure progress. These principles are the foundation of various behavioural treatments aimed at increasing useful or desired behaviours while reducing behaviours that may interfere with learning or prove harmful (Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network (ASATN) & Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health-Behavioral Health Sciences Committee, 2012). ABA therapy utilizes these principles to enhance language and communication skills, as well as attention, focus, social skills, memory, and academics. Additionally, ABA is utilized to minimize problem behaviours (ASATN & Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health-Behavioral Health Sciences Committee, 2012).

Occupational Therapy is also another common therapy for people with ASD. Occupational therapy practices primarily focus on facilitating the integration of individuals with autism into communal life by reducing the challenges they encounter in their daily activities at home, school, or in the community. The goal is to maximize their independence and improve their overall quality of life (Bumin et al., 2015). By utilizing standardized assessment tests, questionnaires, and skilled observations, occupational therapy interventions offer significant benefits in addressing the challenges faced by individuals with autism and their families in their daily lives. These interventions are specifically tailored to meet the unique needs of each individual and provide effective support in managing their difficulties (Bumin et al., 2015). Some practices in occupational therapy include: sensory integration therapy, social skills training and activities of daily living training (Bumin et al., 2015).

Lastly, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is another type of therapy that helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviours. For individuals with ASD, CBT can help with anxiety, depression, and other emotional and behavioural issues. CBT combines the principles of behaviour therapy and cognitive therapy to offer short-term, problem-focused cognitive and behavioural strategies that are based on empirical data and learning and cognition theory (Scarpa et al., 2013). It mainly focuses on helping clients identify and modify maladaptive attitudes and beliefs, which can have a significant impact on cognitive processing, emotional experiences, and problem behaviours. In addition, CBT may also include techniques for modifying behaviour by altering associated responses, antecedents, and consequences in the given situation (Scarpa et al., 2013). Throughout the therapeutic process, the client is taught and guided towards more adaptive ways of thinking and behaving, utilizing both cognitive and behavioural strategies to varying degrees (Scarpa et al., 2013).

In conclusion, there are many types of therapy available to help individuals with ASD manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. The most effective therapy will depend on the individual's specific needs and goals. A comprehensive treatment plan that includes a combination of therapies is often the best approach to treating ASD.

Written by: Amelia Chee


Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network & Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health-Behavioral Health Sciences Committee. (2012). Parent’s Guide to Applied Behavior Analysis for Autism.

Bumin, G., Huri, M., Salar, S., & Kayihan, H. (2015, April 2). Occupational Therapy in Autism. Autism Spectrum Disorder - Recent Advances.

Scarpa, A., White, S. W., & Attwood, T. (Eds.). (2013, October 4). CBT for Children and Adolescents with High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Weitlauf AS, McPheeters ML, Peters B, Sathe N, Travis R, Aiello R, Williamson E, Veenstra-VanderWeele J, Krishnaswami S, Jerome R, Warren Z. (2014). Therapies for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder: Behavioral Interventions Update. Comparative Effectiveness Review No. 137.

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