Health Services for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have complex healthcare needs including physical, mental, and developmental factors. Early diagnosis and continued treatment can help improve your child’s social, behavioral, and communication difficulties. There are a variety of treatments and therapies that can help children with ASD and the choice will depend on your child’s specific needs. You will also find that treatment needs will change as your child grows.

Work closely with your child’s healthcare providers to choose the therapies that best meet your child’s unique needs.


Children with ASD often need counseling to support their emotional needs. Some children may need to meet with a psychologist or social worker on a regular basis.

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is a common approach for children with ASD. ABA encourages positive behavior and discourages negative behaviors to improve your child’s skills. Your child’s progress will be tracked and measured over time. There are different types of ABA available, so talk to your child’s therapist about which type best meets your child’s needs.

Other therapists may also be needed for social therapy to help your child learn how to interact with peers. This therapy can be done in a social skills group—often small, structured groups run by a therapist.


If medication is advised, your child may also need to meet with a psychiatrist or pediatric specialist to monitor how the medication is working. Although it does not cure ASD, medication may be used to manage symptoms such as anxiety, attention problems, and mood swings.

Occupational, Physical, and Speech and Language Therapy

Depending on your child’s unique needs, these therapies may be used to increase your child’s independence. Therapy options may include:

  • Occupational therapy—to help your child learn skills such as dressing, eating, and bathing
  • Sensory integration therapy—to improve how your child processes sensory information
  • Physical therapy—to help your child move independently
  • Speech and language therapy—to help improve communication skills

Depending on the severity of your child’s disorder, some of these services may also be provided at school. You will also need to work closely with your child’s school to make sure your child receives school-based therapies to support learning.

Keep in mind that your child’s needs will change as your child grows. Work closely with your child’s healthcare team to determine which treatments and therapies can best support your child.


Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
National Autism Association



Autism spectrum disorder (ASD): treatment. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
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Updated February 24, 2016. Accessed February 8, 2016.
Autism treatment options. American Psychological Association website. Available at:
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Accessed February 8, 2016.
How is autism treated? Autism Speaks website. Available at:
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Accessed February 8, 2016.
Services for people with autism spectrum disorder. Easter Seals website. Available at:
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Accessed February 8, 2016.
Last reviewed February 2016 by Michael Woods MD
Last Updated: 2/8/2016

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