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Thanks to the internet, information on autism therapy is unlimited. Some of it is very valid and helpful. Some of it is not. Use common sense when picking interventions or treatments to try. If it sounds too good to be true, it just might be.
As of now, there is no cure for autism. There are lots of treatments that can teach skills and there are some medications that can improve some physical symptoms but there is no cure. That’s hard to hear as a parent and hard for me to say as a therapist. I believe that every child is capable of learning and becoming a better version of themselves.
The interventions you choose should fit with your values and be evidence-based. Evidence-based means that different groups of researchers studied them and have repeated the results many times. However, there are many autism therapy interventions that are not evidence-based.
One of the problems with choosing an intervention that is not evidence-based is that it takes valuable time, energy and resources away from interventions that are shown to work. Very few families have unlimited funds for therapy. Therefore it’s important to try and get the most value out of the things you can do.
Ask these 8 Questions when choosing an autism therapy or provider:
1. What research is there that supports this intervention?
Look for studies that have been peer reviewed (that means that other experts in the field have reviewed the study and can vouch for the way the study was designed).
Anyone can write a blog or publish an article on the internet. That is to say you want to be sure that the information you’re using comes from reputable sources like Universities (and not just your aunt’s best friend’s cousin who had the same problem as you).
At Side by Side Therapy, we only utilize evidence-based practices in our autism therapy.
2. What training do you and your staff have?
In Canada, there is no standard credential for behaviour therapists. In Ontario, in order to use your provincial funding on behavioural services, the program must be supervised by a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst or a Clinical Psychologist with experience in ABA. To be an Instructor Therapist (IT), most agencies require that the candidate have a post-grad diploma or certificate in Autism and Behaviour Sciences. It is slowly becoming the standard that ITs are Registered Behaviour Technicians (RBT) but it’s not mandatory.
At Side by Side Therapy, all of our clinicians are encouraged to maintain the highest standard for their discipline. We are actively training the next generation of behaviour analysts.
3. How will this intervention be individualized for my child?
There’s an expression in the autism world: “If you know one person with autism… you know one person with autism”. Each child is an individual and learns differently. In other words how they are taught, which reinforcers and prompting procedures are used and how success is measured should all be individualized. It is impossible to pick up a textbook or curriculum and have an ideal autism therapy program.
4. How do you measure progress?
Some clinicians are focused on the end goal – total independence. Some children will never achieve total independence. It’s important that the way progress is measured is meaningful to the client and family. There are different dimensions that can be used to measure progress: frequency, intensity, duration and more!
5. How will we work as a team?
You want to ask about how frequently team meetings are held, how to contact the clinical supervisor if you need them (phone, email, text?) and how frequently parent training sessions are held.
Parents should be involved in every aspect of their child’s autism therapy program.
6. What are the goals of this autism therapy – in general and for my child?
You want to ensure that the goals of the intervention align with your goals for your child. Some programs focus on language, while others focus on challenging behaviour reduction. You want to ensure that the goals reflect your child’s needs and your beliefs about education and will be in line with your thinking.
7. What are your feelings on stim behaviours? Should we be trying to stop them?
For many years it was believed that therapists should stop children from engaging in self-stimulating behaviours (stimming). Many autistic advocates have expressed how damaging suppressing stims was for them. A new belief is taking hold – as long as the stim is not hurting anyone, destroying property or stopping the child from participating in activities, it should not be addressed. No one stops typically developing people from engaging in stims as long as they’re not hurting anyone or destroying property – why should it be any different for autistics?
8. What is the process for terminating services if I do not wish to continue?
You should never be locked into a service. If it is not working for your child or family you should be able to openly discuss this with the team. In Ontario, specifically, you should not be pressured to sign over your entire Childhood budget or Interim One Time Funding Cheque to a provider.
Connect with Side by Side Therapy to schedule a no-charge/no obligation consultation to discuss our autism therapy solutions for your child.