Top Twelve Therapies For Autism

If your child is diagnosed with autism, you may not know where to start. If you are lucky, your physician will have some suggestions and your child’s teachers will have some suggestions. Beyond that, you will likely turn to your neighbors, books, and the internet.

As you read and talk with others, you will likely quickly realize that no one therapy works for all children. While many children with autism are able to improve with therapy, there is no magic cure.

So, acknowledging that all children are different, your best shot is to look closely at your child and at your family and try the therapies that are most likely to make a difference and that are the most realistic for your family. Since many autism therapies are poorly studied and none are proven 100% effective, you cannot afford to rely solely on science-based evidence. Instead, I suggest that you begin with the therapies that are most commonly used by families Journaling with children with autism. While there is no guarantee that these therapies will work for your child, it does suggest a level of acceptance in the autism community.

The top 12 most commonly used autism therapies are:

  • Speech and language therapy (used by 70% of parents)
  • Visual schedules (used by 43.2% of parents)
  • Sensory integration therapy (used by 38.2% of parents)
  • Applied behavior analysis therapy – ABA (used by 36.4% of parents)
  • Social story therapy (used by 36.1% of parents)
  • Vitamin C (used by 30.8% of parents)
  • Vitamin B6 and magnesium (used by approximately 30% of parents)
  • Essential fatty acids (used by 28.7% of parents)
  • Picture exchange communication system – PECS (used by 27.6% of children)
  • Casein-free diet (used by 26.8% of parents)
  • Gluten-free diet (used by 23.1% of parents)
  • Vitamin A (used by 22.0% of parents)

Consider these therapies first. Consider the pros and cons for your family if you were to adopt these therapies. Is the therapy too expensive to be realistic for you? Is the therapy inaccessible for your family? Is the therapy too complicated for your family structure? Be realistic. If a therapy will put undue stress on your family, try the next therapy down the list.

When you decide on a therapy approach, keep a detailed record of your child’s symptoms and response to the therapy. Try to add just one therapy at a time (perhaps just one per week). If a therapy causes worse behavior in your child, then drop it. If, after a month, you see no improvement in your child, consider dropping the therapy. Above all, do not believe so much in any given therapy that you deny the response that your child is showing you. No one therapy works for all children. If a therapy does not work for your child, then move on and try another therapy. Your child is precious, but so is your time and money. You owe it to your child, yourself, and your family to find a therapy approach that works specifically for your situation.

(The list of most popular therapies was taken from a survey by Dr. Vanessa Green that was published in 2006.)

Lara Pullen, PhD is the CEO of. Healing Thresholds Autism Therapy is a free website and email newsletter dedicated to healing the lives of families touched by autism. They provide comprehensive therapy fact sheets, daily updates of autism therapy research and news, and a global directory of autism-related therapists and services. The 100 top autism therapies are listed and discussed at with comprehensive fact sheets provided for the top twelve therapies.

Lara is a former research scientist in the field of immunology. She has been a medical writer since 1999 and has written on a wide range of topics from Alzheimer’s disease to diabetes. She is the mother of three children, the youngest of whom has Prader-Willi Syndrome.


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