There are many kinds of treatments for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) such as applied behavioral analysis, educational interventions, and medicine.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

ABA is a type of behavior program. It can be used in school, in a therapy setting, and at home. There are a number of different 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 prompts the child to do the task. A reward is given when the task is done as asked.

Other types of ABA programs include pivotal response training (PRT). 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. Finished tasks are rewarded. PRT can also have a positive effect on other behaviors.

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 indicate their needs.

Educational Interventions

Other programs that may be used at school. These may include:

The relationship-based developmental program, which 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). Tasks are focused on certain skills such as verbal, social, or other daily activity.

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 include:

  • Speech and language therapy
  • Occupational therapy—learn daily life skills such as dressing or bathing
  • Social skills instruction
  • Sensory integration therapy—helps a child cope with bothersome sensory information such as touch or sound
  • Developmental optometry—helps with learning-related visual problems


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


Autism spectrum disorder. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: Updated March 2018. Accessed August 19, 2019.

Autism spectrum disorders. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated July 1, 2019. Accessed August 19, 2019.

Intervention and therapy options. Autism Society website. Available at: Accessed August 19, 2019.

Johnson CP, Myers SM, American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Children with Disabilities. Identification and evaluation of children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics. 2007;120(5):1183-1215.

Treatment for autism spectrum disorder. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated May 3, 2018. Accessed August 19, 2019.

What is early intervention? Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: Updated November 21, 2015. August 19, 2019.

Last reviewed December 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD  Last Updated: 8/19/2019