Interventions for Autistic Children and Young People

Mother and her child with autismThere are many interventions (treatments and therapies) that are designed to improve the quality of life for autistic children and young.

However there is no 'one-size fits all' solution. Each child or young person is a unique individual, with unique needs and abilities. The most effective interventions are tailored to meet the unique characteristics of each individual.

There are also some interventions - such as respite care/short breaks or online communities - that are designed to improve the quality of life for the parents and carers of autistic children and young peopleautism.

This page lists some of the interventions commonly used to help autistic children and young people. Please note that space does not permit us to list them all.

For a list of 1,000 plus interventions please see Alphabetic List of Autism Interventions, Treatments and Therapies.

For a list of interventions designed to help with specific issues (such as social communication and social interaction) please see the Issues section of this website

For a list of interventions we have evaluated/are evaluating please see Our Evaluations of Autism Interventions, Treatments and Therapies

Best Practice Guidance from Government

NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) is a UK agency which provides national guidance and advice to improve health and social care. It has published a number of documents on the care of children on the autism spectrum including 'The management and support of children and young people on the autism spectrum'. (2013). London: National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Augmentative and alternative and communication (AAC) is any form of communication that people use if they are unable or unwilling to use standard forms of communication such as speech.

Specific forms of AAC include facilitated communication, the Picture Exchange Communication System, sign language and voice output communication aids.

More about Alternative and Augmentative Communication

Assistive and Adaptive Technology

Assistive and Adaptive Technology commonly refers to "... products, devices or equipment, whether acquired commercially, modified or customized, that are used to maintain, increase or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities"

Specific forms  of AAT include hyperbaric oxygen therapy, mobile devices (inc media players, phones and tablets), neurofeedback training, online communities, robots, transcranial magnetic stimulation.

More about Assistive and Adaptive Technology

Behavioural and Developmental Interventions

Behavioural interventions are designed to encourage appropriate behaviour (such as getting dressed or talking to other people) and to discourage inappropriate behaviour (such as self harm or aggression towards others).

Developmental interventions are designed to target the core deficits within the individual rather than his or her outward behaviours.

Specific interventions include ABA (aka applied behaviour analysis), cognitive behaviour therapy, functional communication training, gentle teaching, intensive interaction, pivotal response training, positive behavioural support, self-management, and social skills groups.

More about Behavioural and Developmental Interventions

Dietary Interventions

Dietary Supplements

Dietary supplements are products that are intended to supplement the diet; contain one or more dietary ingredients ; are intended to be taken by mouth as a pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid; and are labelled as being a dietary supplement.

There are numerous different types of supplements including amino acids, botanicals, cofactors, digestive enzymes, essential fatty acids, minerals, prebiotics probiotics and vitamins.

Special Diets

Special diets involve eating more or less of specific foodstuffs.

For example, some diets require the individual to eat foodstuffs which contain ingredients believed to benefit him or her (such as the essential fatty acid omega-3)

Other diets require the individual to avoid or reduce foodstuffs which are believed to harm him or her  (such as gluten and casein, or yeast).

More about Special Diets and Supplements

Educational Interventions

The term educational intervention is very wide ranging and means different things to diffrent people.

In practice it tends to mean any intervention which is delivered in an educational setting (such as a nursery, a school or a college) or which aims to educate i.e. teach or develop, the recipients of the  intervention.

More about Educational Interventions

Employment Interventions

Employment (aka vocational interventions) are interventions which are designed to improve the employment experience of the particpants.

Specific employment interventions include competitive employment, internship employment model, sheltered employment and supported employment.

More about  Vocational Interventions


Medications (also known as pharmaceutical drugs, medicines, or medicaments) can be loosely defined as chemical substances intended for use in the medical diagnosis, cure, treatment, or prevention of disease.

Specific types of medications include anticonvulsants (such as sodium valproate), antidepressants (such as fluoxetine), antipsychotics (such as risperidone), cholinesterase Inhibitors (such as donepezil), stimulants (such as methtylphenidate) and many, many others.

More about Medications

Motor Sensory Interventions

Motor interventions refer to any treatments and therapies which make use of, or which aim to improve, motor functioning i.e. movement of the whole body or parts of the body.

Sensory interventions refer to any treatments and therapies which make use of, or which aim to improve sensitivity to, one or more of the senses.

Specific interventions include auditory integration training, ambient prism lenses, coloured filters, lightwave stimulation, massage, multi-sensory environments, sensory integrative therapy, weighted items (such as blankets and vests), and yoga.

More about Motor Sensory Interventions

Psychological Interventions

Psychological interventions include a wide range of interventions based on psychology, which is the scientific study of the human mind and behaviour: how we think, feel, act and interact, individually and in groups.

Psychological interventions include talking therapies (such as as counselling and psychotherapy), creative therapies (such as art therapy) and cognitive and behavioural therapies (such as cognitive behavioural therapy).

Psychological interventions also include a variety of behavioural, developmental and educational interventions.

More about Psychological Interventions

Social Care Services

Social care services are designed for assessing the needs of, and providing support to people on the autism spectrum in the community.

In the UK, those services may be provided by the local social services/social work department, by a social enterprise or not-for-profit organisation, or by a parent or carer.

Social care services include advocacy and self advocacy, residential care, short breaks, social groups and supported living.

Please see Social Care Services

Standard Health Care

Standard healthcare (aka conventional medicine) is designed to maintain the health and well-being of individuals with autism and include a wide range of treatments and therapies which are accepted and used by the majority of health care professionals.

Most standard health care providers use a variety of approaches and techniques. For example, occupational therapists, psychologists and speech and language therapists often work together using a combination of behavioural, developmental, AAC and motor-sensory interventions.

Standard healtcare includes medication, occupational therapy, osteopathy, physiotherapy, psychology, psychotherapy, and speech and language therapy (speech pathology).

More about Standard Healthcare

Other Interventions

Other interventions include any other interventions which do not fit neatly into the other categories listed above.

Specific types of intervention include animal-based therapies (such as the use of assistance dogs) and rights-based interventons (such as advocacy and campaigning.)

More about Other Interventions

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15 Jun 2022