What is this guide for?
This guide offers you reliable information about a wide range of therapies for autistic children. Each short therapy guide:
- describes a particular therapy and the idea behind its approach
- assesses the research on the therapy and says when there’s no reliable research to support it
- estimates the time and costs involved in using the therapy.
How do I use this guide?
To use the guide, you can browse our A-Z index.
How many therapies for autistic children are covered in the guide? How many exist?
This guide currently covers more than 50 therapies for autism, and we’re adding to it all the time. Our selection of therapies is based on the most commonly mentioned therapies.
A search of the internet, books, magazines, autism associations and other materials reveals at least 400 therapies that claim to help autistic children. For many of these therapies, there’s little reliable research evidence that they help autistic children.
Read our article on types of therapies for autistic children for an overview of autism therapies.
Why does the guide cover only a selection of therapies for autistic children?
The guide is a work in progress. We’re developing and adding new therapies all the time. Each short therapy guide takes time as we search for information and give the therapy a rating based on the conclusions of scientific research.
What is the guide based on?
Our classification of autism therapies and other background information is based on a 2011 report to the Australian Government, prepared by 5 Australian experts in autism: Professor Jacqueline Roberts, Professor Margot Prior, Professor Sylvia Rodger, Professor Katrina Williams and Dr Rebecca Sutherland.
This report identified therapies commonly used in Australia.
Why does the guide focus on evidence from scientific research?
Scientific research provides the best and most reliable evidence about what really helps autistic children. This kind of research is usually reported in scientific journals and textbooks, which might be hard to find or time-consuming for parents to research by themselves.
What is the ‘research rating’ in each short therapy guide based on?
Each short guide offers a research rating of an autism therapy. These are the ratings:
- Established: research shows positive effects.
- Promising: some research shows positive effects, but more research is needed.
- Yet to be determined: not enough research is available.
- Ineffective/harmful: research shows this approach is ineffective or can be harmful.
- Unrateable: this approach is not yet reviewed by our research sources.
We base the rating for each therapy on the level of scientific evidence that supports the therapy. The aim is to give you a sense of how much unbiased research support there is to say whether the therapy helps autistic children.
Our rating system is based on:
- National Autism Center – National standards project (2015)
- National Clearinghouse on Autism Evidence and Practice – Evidence-based practices for children, youth, and young adults with autism (2022)
- conclusions from Cochrane systematic reviews when needed.
These sources have carefully assessed many autism therapies, based on very strict criteria for quality and quantity of research and consistency of findings.
When a therapy hasn’t yet been systematically reviewed by our research sources, it’s marked as ‘Unrateable’.
Why don’t you use evidence from people’s experience in your research ratings?
Evidence from people’s experience – for example, from people who are putting therapies into practice or parents who are using therapies – isn’t always reliable. This is because it can be biased by people’s ideas, beliefs and values.
With our research ratings, we aim to give you a sense of how much unbiased research supports the effectiveness of various therapies.
How is the guide kept up to date?
raisingchildren.net.au has a program of ongoing review and maintenance of all its content, which includes this guide. This means experts regularly look at our content in light of newly published and relevant research.