Navigating the services and therapies for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can sometimes feel overwhelming.  If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) they may have a large team of interdisciplinary professionals (with a variety of different credentials) who contribute to their treatment.  This entry will briefly summarize the role of professionals and therapists and the services that they provide.  


Speech-Language Pathology

Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) and Speech-Language Pathology Assistants (SLPAs) often work with children with ASD to improve their ability to communicate.  SLPs work to assess, diagnose and treat speech disorders (for example when a person cannot produce speech sounds); language disorders (when a person has trouble understanding others); social communication (for example, asking questions or greeting a friend); and cognitive-communication (for example, organizing thoughts and paying attention).  Speech-language services support children in building the communication skills that they need to reach their individual goals.


ABA Therapy

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is an evidence-based intervention approach that targets improving specific behaviors.  A variety of professionals can provide this intervention including Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs), Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBAs), Registered Behavioral Technicians (RBTs) and paraprofessionals such as Behavioral Health Professionals or Education Technicians.  Prior to intervention, the provider will evaluate the causes and consequences of your child’s behavior and develop a plan for intervention and behavior change.  Strategies used may include positive reinforcement, changing the environment, and adding or removing cues that lead to a specific behavior.  


Social Work

Social workers help children and their families cope with the challenges in their daily lives.  A social worker may help a parent or caregiver build a supportive network; understand their legal rights; learn to advocate for their child; or collaborate to determine effective parenting strategies.  A child with ASD may learn and practice coping strategies, receive emotional support, and for older children, address how their challenges differ between school, home, and their community.  Common credentials for social workers include LSW (Licensed Social Worker); MSW (Master of Social Work); and LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker).


Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapists (OTs) and Occupational Therapy Assistants (OTAs) help give children the opportunity to participate in the things that they want and need to do.  For children with autism spectrum disorder this often includes building independence with learning, playing with peers, participating in fine motor activities, self-care, and more.  Intervention sessions may consist of preparatory activities (such as engaging in a sensory rich environment), skill building, modifying the environment, modifying an activity, or establishing a new routine.


Physical Therapy

Physical therapy helps children improve their ability to move and function.  For children with ASD, this often translates to improving coordination and developing postural control.  Physical Therapists (PTs) and Physical Therapy Assistants (PTAs) help kids develop skills that may allow them to engage in gross motor games, sit at their desk for learning, or play on playground equipment at recess.  

Case Management

Case management (CM) and service coordination professionals work alongside family members to assess needs and help them to access services and therapies for Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Case managers are valuable team members who advocate for families and link them with the tools and resources that they need for their child with ASD.  The role of the case manager is comprehensive and often includes initial screening, assessment, goal-development, creating referrals, conveying information, monitoring the child’s progress, and more.


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