by Stahl RJ

There are many treatments for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Here are a few that are common.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

ABA can be used in school, in a therapy setting, and at home. There are many kinds of ABA programs. One is called discrete trial training (DTT). This is a structured method of teaching. It breaks a lesson into steps. It encourages the child to do the task. A reward is given when the task is done as asked.

Pivotal response training (PRT) is another type of ABA. This focuses on what motivates the child to learn. A certain toy the child likes to play with can be used to teach a skill. The child gets the reward when they do the task.

Applied verbal behavior (VB) helps the child gain verbal skills. Lessons are broken down into small trials. It uses prompts and feedback to reinforce desired behavior. The goal is to have the child use their verbal skills to communicate their needs.

School-Based Treatments

Other programs may be used at school.

The relationship-based developmental program focuses on:

  • The developmental level of the child
  • How the child is progressing emotionally
  • How the child responds to the environment
  • What types of social relationships the child has

Treatment and education of autistic and related communication-handicapped children (TEACCH) is a program that focuses tasks on certain skills such as verbal, social, or a daily task.

Children can be taught to communicate with:

  • Picture exchange communication system—use of pictures
  • Sign language—use of hand signals
  • Facilitated communication—use of a keyboard or other device

Other methods that may help are:

  • Speech and language therapy
  • Occupational therapy—to learn daily life skills like dressing or bathing
  • Social skills instruction
  • Sensory integration therapy—to help process things like touch and sound
  • Developmental optometry—to help with learning-related visual problems


Medicine is used to help with ASD problems such as anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or inattention.


Autism. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: Accessed May 16, 2022.

Autism spectrum disorder. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: Accessed May 16, 2022.

Autism spectrum disorders. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed May 16, 2022.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kuenn, MD
  • Review Date: 11/2021
  • Update Date: 05/17/2022