Autism Spectrum Disorder FAQ

  • What is autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?

According to Health Canada “ASD is a neurological disorder that affects how the brain functions.” Autism affects 3 main areas of development: social communication, social interaction and repetitive or stereotypic behaviours. 

  • How is autism diagnosed?

There is no medical tests for autism, rather a physician will observe your child and do a developmental screening. Some of the areas that the doctor will evaluate are communication, behaviour and development (are they meeting developmental milestones?). If the doctor feels it’s warranted they will refer your child to a developmental clinic for further assessment. This further assessment will include an interview with you or another primary caregiver, observation of your child and a standardized test such as the ADOS (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule). 

  • What causes autism?

Autism is primarily caused by genetic factors, approximately 80%, while the remaining 20% are caused by environmental factors. This was recently demonstrated in a large multi-national study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry. Autism can run in families or can be the result of de novo (spontaneous) gene mutations.

  • Is there a cure for autism?

There is no cure for autism.  However, there are treatments that can improve the quality of life for the person.  The goal of treatment should be to teach skills that will allow them to be as independent as possible.  Skill domains that should be focused on are: communication, social skills and independence skills.

  • What are the signs of autism?

The signs of autism can be divided into 4 categories: communication, social behaviour, stereotyped behaviour and other behaviour.  For a detailed description of these signs click here

  • Do vaccines cause autism?

Vaccines do not cause autism.  Many people believe that the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine can cause autism. This lie was created by a British physician, Andrew Wakefield, who had filed a patent for a single antigen vaccine for measles only. You can read about how he was discredited here ( and here AND HERE). There have been many studies that have shown there is no correlation between vaccines and autism. The idea that vaccines cause autism has been carried forward by celebrities like Jenny McCarthy, who have used their celebrity status to perpetuate this fabrication.  You can read more about this here.

  • What are the treatments for autism?

There has been a lot of research in the treatments for autism.  Much of the research has been focused on behavioural interventions (primarily ABA).  Treatments for autism can be broadly divided into three categories: 

  1. Behavioural and communication based therapies
  2. Nutritional and alternative therapies 
  3. Medical interventions.  
  • What is ABA?

Please click here for a detailed description of ABA. 

  • Are there medications to treat autism?

While there are no medications to treat autism itself, there are medications that can treat some of the symptoms that are often found in children and adults with autism.  You should speak with your doctor for further information about this. You can read more about that here.

Side by Side Therapy FAQ

  • What if my child doesn’t have a diagnosis?

Your child does not need to have a diagnosis to receive treatment from Side by Side Therapy.  Some parents choose to begin intervention while they’re waiting for a diagnostic appointment or to intervene when there is a singular behavioural challenge that needs to be addressed, despite otherwise developing typically.

  • What if I don’t have a current ABA team?

You don’t need to have an ABA team in place to work with Side by Side Therapy. We can help you source and interview potential therapists.  

  • How do I pay for this?

Unfortunately, at this time in Ontario, ABA is not regulated and therefore is not covered by most extended health benefits.

Labatt – Better together is a charity run by the Labatt company. They offer a Health Grant that “promote health by providing medical devices, therapies, support services and assistive devices, including: Prosthetics, eyewear, medical equipment, special therapies, respite services, Braille materials, and physiotherapy”. Eligibility for this program is income based. Side by Side Therapy can help you fill out the application forms.

If your child has a diagnosis of Autism you should register them in the Ontario Autism Program (OAP). The province is currently redesigning the OAP to be a needs-based program, meaning that your child will receive funds based on the level of intervention that they require.  The waitlist is lengthy, so it is advisable to put your child on the waitlist as soon as possible.  

Ontario Autism Program
Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services
P.O. Box 193
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 1N3
[email protected]

  • What are your rates?

Side by Side Therapy is dedicated to providing ABA based interventions to all families.  Please contact us to discuss our hourly rates. A sliding scale is available when finances are a barrier to service.  

  • Where does therapy happen?

Therapy can happen in your home, at your child’s school, daycare or camp. Some sessions may take place in the community, if the goals lend themselves to that setting (e.g.: at the park to work on gross motor skills or social skills). 

  • Do I need to purchase my own materials?

Lindsey will likely make recommendations of materials that need to be either made or purchased depending on the programs that are in place.  Please direct any questions or concerns to her. 

  • Who is on the team?

An ABA team is a hierarchy:  

  1. Clinical Supervisor or Board Certified Behaviour Analyst
  2. Supervising Therapist (this position is optional, and is often recommended if there more than 20 hours per week of therapy)
  3. Registered Behaviour Technician/Instructor Therapist
  • What is my role?

Side by Side Therapy believes that parents are the most influential change makers in the lives of children with autism or other special needs.  You play a vital role as an advocate for your child. Equally as important, is your ability to carry over interventions and create consistency for your child.  Children whose parents implement the ABA programs in the same way as the therapeutic team have the best outcomes.  

  • Do I have to be present for therapy?

It is important that you attend some of the therapy sessions in order to be able to implement the programs consistently.  If you are unable to attend Side by Side will work with you to troubleshoot solutions (video taping etc).  

  • How long will my child be in therapy? 

The length of time your child will receive services is based on a number of factors: the level of support that they require, their school schedule, the number and complexity of the goals that you have for them and more.