Evidence-based therapy
4 min · Special Needs
July 26, 2023

Evidence-Based Practices in Autism

Autism is a disorder that requires long treatment and therapy process. Essentially, it stems from a number of neurological problems. Different parts in brains of people with this disorder are known to not act synchronically. The treatment can be carried on with practices and therapies to enhance cognitive, auditory and intellectual abilities.

The goal of the therapy is not to completely eliminate autism disorder. Today, there is no known cure for autism. However, with therapy, individuals can achieve what they otherwise cannot do by themselves, and solve their problems relating to communication, speech, perception and thinking. That being said, many methods used for autism are controversial. It is highly important to practice evidence-based methods.

Non-Evidence-Based Practices

Many methods used in autism therapy are not approved by scientific institutions or no evidence was found on their efficiency. Dolphin therapy, hippotherapy, art, music, and drama therapies can exemplify this. Even though there are cases on which these therapy methods had positive effects, there is not any scientific evidence that they have effect on autism treatment.

Evidence-Based Practices

In the USA, National Autism Center recently released a chart of practices related to autism. According to results of 775 researches, it is detected that among the methods used for autism 11 are considered evidence-based, 22 show promise, and 5 of them lack any scientific base.

1. Behavior Analysis

Scientific methods are essentially based on applied behavior analysis. Main purpose of this discipline is to analyze behavior of individual with environmental factors and communication with the environment, and then provide a solution depending on the results. These practices, ranging from playing abilities to social abilities, also aim to reduce tantrums and other bad reactions.

  • Behavior analysis consists 20 to 40 hours practices a week. The goal is to bring in critical abilities.
  • Besides child with autism, parents and environment of the child also take up roles. The therapy should continue every waking moment.
  • Early diagnosis is significant. Behavior analysis that started in early ages will produce better results.

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There are several stages to behavioral analysis. The practice starts with a training. In this stage, various presentations are watched by the child with autism. Wrong reactions are corrected by the therapist, while the right ones are rewarded. This method ensures that the child is positively motivated to gain behavioral skills. Process that started with one-on-one training continues with group sessions.

Activity schedules have great impact in this method. Here, an activity chart is created for the child and the skill that is going to be taught is divided into little steps. This method ensures the continuity of the therapy.  Moreover, it helps the child to learn the skill by elaborating and thus help him to gain intellectual profoundness.

2. Modeling Method

As known, it is not possible for children with autism to gain certain skills by themselves. Certain behaviors and skills that are necessary for children to maintain their lives and communicate are only achieved through therapy. The main goal of autism therapy is to help them gain these skills. Modeling is a method that has been used for some time in autism treatment and known to be effective.

Modeling method is especially effective in therapy of children with severe cognitive disorder. In some cases, children need an example to gain ability and practice. Even though they understand the way it works, it would be hard to do the skill without any practice. This is the exact point that modeling method steps in.

In this method, a behavior that the child should perform is shown practically by an adult. The child takes the adult as a model and performs the behavior. Generally videos are used in this method. It is proven that the children watching the behavioral modeling videos are successful on the subject and do not have problem in grasping various skills. It should be noted that they also make progress in their communication with friends and environment

Modeling with video method is one of the most effective methods. In this method the child is video taped and when he is asked to perform the same skill, he is shown his own video. It is known that this method is influential in reinforcing the skills and making it practical. The method, which has been used since the 1970s, is among the most efficient scientific methods.

3. Behavior Support Plan

Another important issue in autism treatment is the prevention of repetitive harmful behavior. Individuals with autism are known to have anger management problems. Temper tantrums are seen in so many cases that in some of them, this state might cause tendency to violence. The main purpose of behavior support plan is to prevent such situations.

therapy for autism

Autism can trigger disorders like; depression and anxiety. For the treatment process to continue smoothly, these disorders are need to be prevented. Medication might be effective in prevention of said disorders. However, the best way to hinder disorders triggered by autism is to practice positive behavior support.

The goal here is to be able to replace negative behavior with positive ones in individuals with autism. Thanks to this method, problematic behaviors are reduced and the individual is lead to perform positive behavior. Also, improving the quality of life is another important part of behavior support plan. This plan should be suitable to the context and the person.


  • Dilek Akbaş; Problem Davranışların Azaltılmasında Olumlu Destek Planı Hazırlama, Ankara Üniversitesi Eğitim Bilimleri Fakültesi Özel Eğitim Dergisi, Sayı: 3, 2002Sayı: 3, 2002
  • Nurgül Akmanoğlu, Erkan Kurnaz; Otizmli Çocukların Eğitiminde Yeni Eğilimler: Videoyla Kendine Model Olma ve Etkileri, Ankara Üniversitesi Eğitim Bilimleri Fakültesi Özel Eğitim Dergisi, Sayı: 15, 2014,

Last Updated: 11 March 2021


This article is examined by Clinical Child Psychologist and Ph. D. Researcher Kevser Çakmak, and produced by Otsimo Editorial Team.

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This post does not provide medical advice. See Additional Information.