Don’t know where to start?
Contact HelpMeGrow: 888-HLP-GROW (888-457-4769)
This is your first stop for autism testing and resources! Children 1st is the single point of entry for all DPH Child Health programs and services for children, birth – 5 years old. All referrals made to DPH Child Health programs including Babies Can’t Wait (BCW), Children’s Medical Services (CMS), Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI), and 1st Care must be made through Children 1st.
To find a Children 1st location that can assist you with on-boarding, follow the “Click here for the Children 1st website” link listed below. Once you are on the Children 1st website, click on the “Service Locator” tool (in a gray box that says “Look Up Your Local Coordinator” on the right side of the screen). To use the Service Locator tool, either enter your zip code or select your home county from the drop down menu. Check the Children 1st box, then click on the Search For Locations button. The addresses and locations of the nearest Children 1st clinics should be listed under “Results.”
*Tip: If you do not see any results using the country drop down menu, search again using your zip code. Your nearest clinic may be outside of your home county.*
Babies Can’t Wait
Georgia’s Early Intervention program provides supports and resources for children (birth to age three) with significant developmental delays or qualifying medical conditions and their families. To apply for Babies Can’t Wait services, please follow the Georgia Department of Public Health link below. Phone number: 888-651-8224
- Georgia Department of Public Health (Georgia DPH)
- Babies Can’t Wait Program Brochure (available in English and Spanish)
- DPH Financial Guide for Babies Can’t Wait Program
Bright from the Start
- Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning offers support for inclusion through the Inclusion Program with inclusion coordinators available in every community. These inclusion coordinators link families, childcare providers, and others to community resources to ensure that children are successfully included in early care and learning environments. www.decal.ga.gov
Centers for Disease Control
Tracking developmental milestones is an effective way of checking for developmental delays in young children and can be very helpful in detecting autism spectrum disorder early. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that doctors do developmental milestone testing for children at their 9 month, 18 month, and 30 month well-child visits, and that children should be specifically screened for autism spectrum disorder at 18 months and 24 months of age.
To see if your child is meeting his or her developmental milestones, please follow the “Developmental Milestones (CDC)” link listed below. If you would like to learn more about the signs of autism spectrum disorder, please follow the “Learn the Signs. Act Early (CDC)”
- Developmental Milestones (CDC) (PDF of checklist for 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 18, 24, and 36 months)
- Learn the Signs, Act Early (CDC)
- Have an iPhone or Android? Download the Milestone Tracker App
Raising children with autism spectrum disorder and getting kids tested can be expensive. However, there are organizations in Georgia that provide material and financial support to individuals and families affected by autism. The organizations listed below can help families and caretakers find the insurance (CMO’s, Children’s Medical Services) and family care services (P2P) that best fit their needs.
Parent 2 Parent (P2P):
A statewide, non-profit organization that provides support, guidance, and resources to parents of children with disabilities ages birth through twenty-six. 1-800-229-2038.
P2P Contact Us Page:
Fill out the form at the bottom of the page and a coordinator will get in touch with you. The coordinator will be able to work with you and your insurance plan to navigate your financials.
Georgia Department of Community Health Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids:
A comprehensive health care program for uninsured children living in Georgia.
Care Management Organizations (CMO’s):
Georgia Medicaid financial aid services
- Amerigroup Community Care: 1-800-249-0442
- CareSource: 1-855-202-0729
- Peach State Health Plan: 1-866-874-0633
- WellCare: 1-866-231-1821
Children’s Medical Services:
State and federally funded program which provides a statewide community-based, family-focused, care coordinated, culturally appropriate, comprehensive system of medical/ health care for eligible children, birth to 21, with chronic medical conditions. (404) 657-4855.
Scholarships for Children with Special Needs (Georgia Department of Education):
Provides eligible children with the opportunity to attend another private/public school.
Georgia’s Medicaid Waivers:
Click the link above for a PDF containing information on Georgia’s Medicaid waivers, eligibility, services provided, and more.
West Georgia Autism Foundation
Provides grants to families/caretakers to help pay for therapies, services, and materials that benefit people with autism.
Americans with Disabilities Act:
Information and Technical Assistance on the American with Disabilities Act.
Commonly Asked Questions about Child Care and the American with Disabilities Act:
Answers from the U.S. Department of Justice on common questions about the ADA.
Department of Defense Special Needs Parent Toolkit:
Comprehensive information and tools that are geared towards helping military families with children with special needs navigate the maze of medical and special education services, community support and benefits and entitlements.
Families of Children Under Stress (FOCUS):
Support group for families of children with disabilities and other special health care needs.
Georgia Advocacy Office:
The Georgia Advocacy Office (GAO) is a private non-profit corporation. Its mission is to work with and for oppressed and vulnerable individuals in Georgia who are labeled as disabled or mentally ill to secure their protection and advocacy.
Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities:
Provides information and advocacy activities, program implementation, and funding and public policy analysis and research to influence public policies that enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities and their families.
Georgia Health Law Partnership:
An interdisciplinary community collaboration among the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and Georgia State University College of Law to improve the health of low-income children and their families. Offers public health legal services to eligible families of children with health care issues.
Project Healthy Grandparents:
Support and resources for grandparents raising their grandchildren.
Wrightslaw Yellow Pages for Kids:
Listing of Georgia-based therapists, support groups, and other resources for children with disabilities and their families.
Division for Exceptional Students (Georgia Department of Education):
Information and resources for families regarding special education programs in public schools for children 3-21. Includes contact information for referrals to services.
Lekotek of Georgia:
This program will loan adapted and traditional toys to families to use at home and provides individualized support and resources. The program’s goal is to make play successful and interactive for children with disabilities via the use of adapted toys and computer equipment.
The National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations (NCPMI):
Training materials, resources, and research to support social and emotional development in young children.
Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation:
Ideas for increasing children’s opportunities to practice social skills.
Challenging Behavior in Infants and Toddlers:
Tip sheets, brochures, videos, and other resources to help families understand the causes of common behavior problems and ways to teach young children self-control and critical coping skills.
Resource for ideas to support children with challenging behaviors at home and in early education environments.
Social-Emotional Development in Infants and Toddlers:
Tip sheets, brochures, videos, and other resources to help families support social-emotional development in their young children.
Birth to Five Watch Me Thrive:
Information and resources for families, early learning professionals, community members, and others on healthy child development, developmental monitoring, and developmental and behavioral screening.
Easter Seals Make the First Five Count:
Developmental information Families can complete an online Ages and Stages Questionnaire and have results and suggested activities emailed to them.
Learn the Signs. Act Early:
Brochures, videos, and other resources for families and early educators.
Understanding Your Child’s Development:
Information and resources for families to increase their knowledge and understanding of developmental milestones for children birth to three years old.
American Academy of Pediatrics:
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) promotes pediatrics and advances child health priorities in a variety of ways including developing policy, conducting research, lobbying Congress, building coalitions, raising public awareness, funding community-based projects, and supporting training and professional education. Learn more about the great work being done!
Autism Speaks 100 Day Kit for Newly Diagnosed Families of Young Children:
This kit was created specifically for families of children ages 4 and under to make the best possible use of the 100 days following their child’s diagnosis of autism.
Center for Early Literacy Learning:
Provides research-based information and activities designed for use by parents and care providers to promote literacy learning by children with disabilities.
First Words Project:
Resources for families and early educators related to developmental screening tools and early detection of communication delays. Click here to download a brochure explaining the First Words Project and explaining how families can participate.
Toddling Toward Reading:
Information and activities to support early literacy for preschoolers.
Reach out and Read:
Reach out and Read believes all families should have the tools and information they need to make reading aloud a daily routine. They help integrate reading into pediatric practices, advise families about the importance of reading with their children, and share books that serve as a catalyst for healthy childhood development.
Real Dads Read:
Real Dads Read (RDR) is a program by Fathers Incorporated aimed at elementary and middle school-aged children (K-8) and their fathers/male caregivers. The program goals are to encourage children to develop a love of reading, improve children’s literacy skills and educational outcomes, and strengthen bonds between fathers/caregivers and their children.
For families who have children with ASD
A Special Needs Guide to Dental Hygiene:
Gives tips for taking care of oral hygiene at home for children with ASD.
Dental Tool Kit:
Guide for parents of children with ASD. Outlines suggested practices for ensuring that children with ASD engage in good dental care and ideas for planning trips to the dentist’s office.
For dental professionals
Management of Autistic Patients in Dental Office: A Clinical Update:
Describes the difficulties with dental care that autistic patients experience and suggests methods for improving clinical care.
Oral Health Fact Sheet for Dental Professionals—Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder:
Gives advice to dental professionals on how to take care of patients with autism.
Autism Tool Kit for Dental Professionals:
Describes the challenges that people with ASD experience in obtaining dental care. Addresses dental treatment concerns for autistic patients. Gives advice to parents and dental care professionals on how to treat and help autistic patients.
For Dental Professionals: for further information on dental treatment for infants, children, adolescents, and individuals with special health care needs refer to AAPD’s The Reference Manual of Pediatric Dentistry: Definitions, Oral Health Policies, Recommendations, Endorsements, Resources and website (https://www.aapd.org/).
Preparing for College:
Preparing for college can be an overwhelming experience for both students and their parents. The Center for Parent Information and Resources has a helpful guide for those wanting to organize their thoughts and find an appropriate next step after graduating high school.
Common Challenges College Students with ASD Face:
Many college students with ASD can be successful academically, but the change from living at home with a strong support system and living on campus can be big. Some may find it beneficial to begin college courses at a community college and commute from home. This gives students the ability to uphold a stable support system at home while adjusting to the new course load college offers.
While the classes in college may pose a new challenge to students academically, some may also struggle with executive functioning, such as switching between one task to another, staying on task, planning out their day, or organizing. Struggles with social situations can also add to the challenge of transitioning to college life. Social and emotional support systems can help ease the shift into college life. Classroom accommodations, as well as study skills and academic counseling, should also be considered when ASD students enter college. When touring potential colleges, it is important to ask about special programs and accommodations each school offers.
Schools in GA with Programs Specific to ASD:
Some colleges have specific programs designed for those with ASD in mind. There are currently 9 colleges throughout the state of Georgia that have programs designed for those with ASD and allow for a more easy transition into college living.
Click here for a list of colleges that offer programs for those living with ASD.
Click here for more information about each school’s programs and requirements.
Helpful Resources for Preparing for College:
School Counselors and IEP: Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Georgia educators must form an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for each student with ASD. IEPs are plans that are unique to the needs of each individual and are used to help each student achieve their academic goals. Talking with school counselors and other faculty members who play a role in your student’s IEP is a great way to stay updated on your student’s academic life. They are also a great source of information when it comes to helping you and your student prepare for the transition to college.
CollegeMAP: CollegeMAP is a service offered by The Asperger/ Autism Network that matches ASD college students with a counselor. CollegeMAP counselors offer help to students that need assistance in managing their workload, communicating their accommodation needs to the college administration, and finding support systems and programs at college
ASD Ascend: ASD Ascend provides a database of community colleges, colleges, and universities in the United States that accommodate those with ASD. You can find schools by location, accommodations offered by the school, school size, tuition cost, and more.
Scholarships can help ease the financial burden that college brings.
Here are a few options to explore that are specific to college students with ASD:
- Awarded by Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C.
- $5,000 scholarship
- Criteria: Student living with autism, or has a loved one with autism, Enrolled or accepted to college, university, or vocational program.
- $500 scholarship.
- Criteria: Attending or enrolled in a post-secondary program.
- Enrolled or attending school for bachelor’s or associate’s program.
- Must provide proof of diagnosis.
Schwallie Family Scholarship and The Lisa Higgins Hussman Scholarship:
Schwallie Family Scholarship:
- $3,000 scholarship
- Pursuit of associate or bachelor’s degree.
- Must provide proof of diagnosis.
Lisa Higgins Hussman Scholarship:
- $3,000 scholarship
- Pursuit of two-year universities, life skills or postsecondary programs, or vocational, technical, or trade schools.
- Must provide proof of diagnosis.
- Awarded by Kelly Law Team (Phoenix, AZ)
- $1,000 scholarship
- Pursuit of college, trade school, or graduate program
- Awarded by Varghese Summersett PLLC
- $500 scholarship
What is Vocational Rehabilitation?
Vocational Rehabilitation allows individuals with ASD or other disabilities to learn the skills needed to carry out a specific profession.
Choosing the Right Career:
A job that works well for one person with ASD may not work for someone else. Think about special skills or interests that the individual with ASD has, how he or she learns best, and the kinds of environments that he or she prefers to determine the right career path.
How Do I Begin My Journey to Employment?
Meet with a Vocational Counselor
A vocational counselor can help assess eligibility for vocational training and help find a profession that may be a good fit.
Click here to find a vocational counselor near you.
Find a Job Skills Course
Courses that teach specialized job skills can be found throughout the state of Georgia. Your vocational counselor can help find a course that best fits your interests or may refer you to a program like one of the following:
Roosevelt Warm Springs Vocational Training Center (Warm Springs, GA): This residential campus offers job skills training in a number of high-demand fields to those with ASD and other intellectual disabilities.
PRISM of Georgia (Roswell, GA): This program offers job coaching services, job skills training, and more to those with mild to moderate ASD or other intellectual disabilities.
Easterseals of East Georgia (Augusta, GA): Easterseals is a non-profit organization that aids in vocational evaluations, job skills training, and job placement for those with ASD and other disabilities. Easterseals of East Georgia serves 33 counties in east Georgia.
Secure a Job
Vocational counselors can also help with finding a job in your field of interest.
What if Employment is Unattainable?
Employment may not be attainable for those with severe ASD. If this is the case, you can contact disability adjudication services (DAS). DAS is a federally funded program that works with the Social Security Administration to bring social security disability funds to those with ASD and other disabilities who are unable to work.
To get started, please visit the DAS website.
Communal Living Options for Adults with ASD
Asking the Important Questions:
- What kind of neighborhood do I want to live in? What kind of house is right for me?
- How much support will I need in order to live there?
- How will I pay for everything? Is there public funding or financial support?
Creating a Plan:
Take the Community-based Skills Assessment: This assessment was created in order to evaluate the skill level and capabilities of those diagnosed with autism to help the individual and/or family unit build a thorough plan for transitioning into independent living. This will aid in identifying areas of knowledge, strengths, skills, and challenges to focus and work on before the transition takes place.
Each plan will be different for every person and the plan should always be a guide for improvement. Goals should be set with the individual in mind in order to progress toward achieving independence.
Communal living can offer benefits such as companionship, emotional support, and interaction with those with similar likes and interests.
Click here to view communal housing options that are available in the United States.
What does ASD look like in girls?
Although autism is more frequently diagnosed in boys, girls can be diagnosed with ASD too. The signs and symptoms of ASD can present differently in girls, which may cause girls with ASD to go un-diagnosed. Girls with ASD may show the following symptoms:
- Social Masking/Camouflaging: Girls with ASD can blend into social scenes by mimicking the social behaviors they see neurotypical people (people without ASD) do. Examples of social masking/ camouflaging could be: mimicking hand gestures, postures, or mimicking vocal tones.
- Scripting: Girls with ASD may sometimes make up a conversation in their heads and then rely on their memorized script in order to talk with others. The conversation that results may not appear natural or genuine and instead feel forced, unnatural, or rigid.
- Well-Developed Linguistic Skills: In many cases, language skills (communicating verbally, non-verbally, and maintaining eye contact) are more developed in girls with ASD than in their male counterparts. As a result, a diagnosis of autism can be missed or delayed in girls with ASD because they may successfully reach linguistic milestones.
- Few Repetitive Behaviors: While repetitive behaviors are common in boys with ASD, they are less common in girls with ASD.
- Selective Mutism: Selective mutism may occur in social situations when an individual with ASD becomes overwhelmed. For example, girls with ASD may whisper, rarely speak, or not speak at all when at school, but have no problems communicating when at home.
- More Mainstream Interests: People with ASD may have one specific passion, rather than a range of interests. In girls with ASD, the specific interest may be a topic that most girls already enjoy, such as horses, a popular TV show, or a band. Because interests tend to be more “normal” or mainstream, they may be overlooked and contribute to delayed diagnosis of ASD.
- Girls with ASD may also struggle with: anxiety/depression, ADD/ ADHD, OCD or compulsive tendencies, body dysmorphia, or eating disorders.
If you would like to learn more about how ASD presents in women and girls, please follow the links below:
The costs of camouflaging autism | Spectrum
Autism-It’s Different in Girls
Are Girls With Autism Hiding in Plain Sight? – SPARK
What can delay an ASD diagnosis in girls?
- Girls use Compensatory Behaviors: The use of camouflaging techniques, such as social masking, to hide difficulties in social situations can make girls with ASD less likely to be identified. Imitation of neurotypical social behaviors during a clinical assessment can also hinder physicians in being able to identify autistic traits.
- Parental Concerns: Parents may be more likely to attribute atypical behaviors to ASD in boys than in girls because ASD had been previously thought of as a male disorder. Girls are more likely to receive an ASD diagnosis if their emotional and behavioral problems are extreme and obvious to parents.
- Lack of Information/Resources: While there is an abundance of information about boys with ASD, there is a lack of helpful information available about girls with ASD. This can be detrimental during clinical assessment because parents may be less inclined to seek a diagnosis for daughters.
- Clinician Bias: Because ASD is diagnosed in boys more frequently, clinicians may not consider ASD as an explanation for atypical behaviors present in girls.
- Diagnostic Criteria: Symptoms of ASD in girls are not as readily recognized. Research experts have even expressed that male behavior and symptoms correspond more heavily with criteria listed in diagnostic manuals for ASD. Samples that were used to create the diagnostic criteria were primarily male, and there is very little research looking into the different presentations of ASD symptoms. This speaks to the possibility that the diagnostic criteria may not describe ASD symptoms demonstrated by girls as equally as it does in boys.
- Co-existing Problems: Girls are at a greater risk for going undetected for ASD because they tend to display maladaptive traits, such as hyperactivity and aggression, to a lesser degree. Females with ASD are thought to experience more “inward” emotional stress which may contribute to misdiagnosis. Girls with ASD are also more likely to have a co-existing intellectual disability, which may mask signs and symptoms of ASD.
Considerations for Visiting the Doctor’s Office with an Autistic Child:
Healthcare providers are accustomed to anxious patients. For individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), sensory issues, an aversion to physical contact, or changes in their daily routine could lead to a negative doctor’s office visit. Fostering a positive medical experience during childhood can increase the likelihood that individuals with ASD will receive appropriate medical care throughout their lives. The patient’s first experience can set the precedent for future office visits. Therefore, creating positive, impactful experiences that carry into adulthood will have a long-term beneficial impact.
Things families should do to prepare for a doctor’s office visit:
- Take the child to the office before the appointment to familiarize them with the environment.
- Practice procedures before the appointment.
- Remember to bring a communication system your child utilizes. Even if the child/adolescent has language, the visit may be anxiety-inducing and the child/adolescent may not be able to use the language they have.
- Be cognizant of the child’s routine to schedule the appointment at the right time (i.e: time of day, time the office is not busy, time least intrusive to child’s daily routine).
- Bring comfort items and/or items to distract the child’s attention from the medical setting.
- Remember to speak to the medical team in advance about any special accommodations the child may need, such as environmental modifications.
- Inform healthcare providers about certain triggers or any sensory inputs that make the patient anxious.
Video presentations to prepare families/patients with certain procedures:
- An animated video on what to expect during a doctor’s office visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwx2Z69S0YA
- Getting an x-ray. What to expect prior, during, and after the procedure: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6Po-Uc7IPY
- What to expect during a surgical procedure. Although this is specific to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, it can be applicable to most hospital settings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGDfXb_mv7c
- A 30-minute episode from “Sid the Science Kid” on getting a shot or vaccine for kids: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tpmiGFxRg4
Things healthcare providers can do:
- Providers can ask specific questions when scheduling patients with ASD, such as:
- Does the child have any developmental or behavioral diagnoses that the staff should be aware of?
- Does the child have any special communication needs?
- Has the child had difficulty going to similar appointments?
- Does the child follow a rigid routine? If so, when is the best time during the day to schedule an appointment?
- Does the child have any sensory sensitivities?
- Healthcare providers may also:
- Send paperwork and questionnaires to parents in advance of the appointment in order to minimize wait time.
- Make small adjustments to the appointment to minimize wait times, time spent in large patient waiting areas, or the use of bright lights.
Things healthcare providers should inform parents so they know what to expect:
- Ask parents to bring accommodating items (like distractions, comfort items, special communication devices, etc.).
- Discuss what exactly entails an office visit so parents can prepare children.
- Discuss specific ways to calm the child down should they become anxious.
Things providers should expect and anticipate before a visit:
- REMEMBER TO GO SLOW! Take any necessary extra time or breaks to allow the patient to acclimate to the procedures or new environment.
- Have distraction or comfort items available at the office in case it is necessary for an anxious child.
ASD in Social Media:
Want to see what living with ASD is like? Many families, researchers, and self-advocates have produced content describing the symptoms of ASD and what living with ASD is like. We enthusiastically encourage you to search out and listen to those stories! They will show you how diverse people on the spectrum are and teach you about how people with ASD experience the world. To get you started, we have curated a collection of videos and other social media featuring content from autistic creators.
Please see the videos below to learn what everyday life is like for some people with ASD:
- Autism Speaks produced an interview series called “Adulting on the Spectrum” that features different adults with ASD discussing their lives and backgrounds.
- In a TED Talk called “What it’s really like to have autism”, Ethan Lisi talks about his personal experience with autism.
- Software tester Lars Lars Johansson-Kjellerød discusses the positive potential of people with ASD in a TED Talk called “Embrace the potential of Autism.”
- Author and motivational speaker Kerry Magro present a TED Talk about growing up with ASD called “What happens to children with autism when they become adults?”
- In a TED Talk titled “Invisible diversity: a story of undiagnosed autism,” writer Carrie Beckwith-Fellows describes her life after being diagnosed with ASD at 35 years old and the social strategies that girls sometimes use to hide their ASD.
- Musician Elisabeth Wiklander describes the confusion she experienced growing up with undiagnosed ASD in her TED Talk, “Neurodiversity – the key that unlocked my world.”
- Doctor Sarai Pahla talks about her adventures in dating in her TED Talk “Women and autism. Towards a better understanding.”
What is Early Intervention (EI)?
EI consists of several different types of treatments and therapies that occur before or at 3 years old when the brain’s plasticity is high. Studies have shown that the sooner a child receives intervention therapies, the better the chance of learning and progress. Some children with autism make so much progress that they are no longer considered to be on the autism spectrum when they are older. EI’s Goal: To help children with autism spectrum disorder gain everyday life skills that normally develop during the first few years of life.
Click here for more information on early intervention for autism.
Types of EI:
- Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
- Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)
- Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
- Discrete Trial Training (DTT)
- Pivotal Response Training (PRT)
- Ayres Sensory Integration
- Speech therapy
- Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC)
- Verbal Behavior Therapy
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA):
- ABA’s goal is to alter behavior through positive reinforcement.
- One-on-one therapy
- Utilizes antecedents and consequential events to identify patterns of behavior and reinforce certain behaviors.
- An antecedent is an event that occurs immediately before a behavior and impacts a patient’s current behavior. For example, a loud noise could be an antecedent, and screaming could be the behavior that follows.
- A consequential event impacts whether that behavior will occur in the future when the antecedent is present.
- ABA seeks to increase positive behaviors (e.g. communication skills, social skills, etc…) and decrease maladaptive behaviors (e.g. aggressive behavior, self-stimulatory behavior, etc…).
Click here to view a short clip on applied behavioral analysis.
- The first step in ABA therapy is to identify the function that maladaptive behaviors serve for the patient.
- ABA works on the premise that children engage in patterns of behavior because they “work” for the child. In other words, children engage in maladaptive behaviors because those behaviors caused an outcome the child wanted. For example, a Tim might hit Adam to get the toy monster truck that Adam was playing with. Although hitting is a maladaptive behavior if Adam gives Tim the truck, then Tim may believe that hitting is a good strategy for getting toys from other children.
- Ultimately, ABA seeks to identify what a behavior “does” for the child, then teach the child replacement strategies for achieving their desired outcomes.
- All 50 states have taken action to require insurance coverage for ABA. For more information, please see the IDEA Act and Ava’s Law links under the “Legal Requirements for Schools” tab.
- For more information about ABA, please see The Autism Center of Ascension Sacred Heart’s Introduction to Applied Behavioral Analysis video.
- For information on the efficacy of ABA, please see Efficacy of Interventions Based on Applied Behavior Analysis for Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Meta-Analysis
Early Start Denver Model (ESDM):
- The ESDM uses ABA methods to help the patients build positive relationships. ESDM therapists use play and joint activities to help patients perform real-life activities, and develop language skills.
- Promotes “turn-taking” behavior and imitation.
- Facilitate children to imitate the care-provider by pairing the desired behavior with positive reinforcement.
- Care-provider does not give a specific set of instructions.
- Click here to view a clip on the Early Start Denver Model.
- Addresses all developmental domains.
- Designed to improve several skills at once .
- Large time commitment may be challenging for certain households.
- Please see the Early Start Denver Model for a video example of an ESDM session.
Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS):
- Uses pictures to help children with little or no language communicate.
- Prompting and reinforcement strategies are used to teach children to exchange pictures for items they want. The goal is to encourage independent, un-prompted communication.
- Through PECS training, children learn to make “sentences” using pictures.
- Through PECS training, children:
- Use pictures for speech.
- Speak better or significantly better when using pictures.
- Engage more in social interaction when using pictures.
- Patients who may benefit from PECS may:
- Not have imitation skills.
- Have some speech, but speech may not be functional.
- Have speech but don’t initiate.
- Have very limited speech without expansions or descriptions
- Have speech that is difficult to understand by unfamiliar people
- PECS therapy consists of 6 phases:
- Phase 1: Children learn to exchange single pictures for items they want.
- Phase 2: Still using single pictures, children use this new skill in different locations.
- Phase 3: Children learn to discriminate between two different pictures.
- Phase 4: Children learn to form simple sentences using an “I want” picture prompt. “I want” is followed by the picture of the desired item. Eventually, these sentences are expanded through adjectives and verbs.
- Phase 5: Children learn to use pictures to answer questions.
- Phase 6: Children expand sentence formation to make general comments.
- You can buy communication picture sets here and here!
- To read more about PECS, please see the National Autism Resources Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) webpage!
- Video examples of PECS sessions can be seen here:
Discrete Trial Training (DTT):
- DTT uses ABA methods to teach children discrete skills one at a time, then assembles those discrete skills to perform a single skill or behavior.
- Useful in cases where the behavior is not apparently complex, but where being able to adopt the behaviors immediately would be difficult using other methods of ABA.
- People on the “low-functioning” end of the autism spectrum might benefit from DTT for simple behaviors, such as asking someone if they want to play.
- Learning the sounds of individual words or learning how to play with others could require separate discrete trials.
- Treatment is mainly instructor-initiated rather than patient-initiated.
- To learn more about DTT, please read What is Discrete Trial Training?
Pivotal Response Training (PRT):
- Focuses on arranging a child’s environment to promote the use of certain items and then provides opportunities for the child to use those items in natural play. PRT therapy is tailored to the needs of each child.
- Focuses on specific areas of child development, such as motivation, initiation of social interactions, self-regulation, and responding to multiple cues.
- Indirectly improves other areas of social skills, behavior, and communication.
- Utilizes motivation strategies to produce natural reinforcement.
- Speech therapists
- Special education teachers
- It is helpful if the patient’s entire family adopts PRT “lifestyle.” Meaning that for best results, the child’s family should consistently use PRT techniques.
- For more information about PRT, visit Autism Speaks Pivotal Response Treatment
Sensory Integration Therapy:
- Focuses on 3 basic senses: tactile (touch), vestibular (balance), and proprioceptive (body-awareness; internal stimuli).
- Sensory integration therapy works on the premise that when one or more senses are over-or under-reactive to stimulation, learning skills that facilitate attention and awareness can reduce over-responsiveness.
- Goals of Sensory Integration Therapy:
- Provide the child with sensory information in order to “train” the central nervous system to be less responsive.
- Teach the child strategies for processing and responding to sensory information.
- Uses physical activities and exercises to help children learn to interpret and use sensory information more effectively.
- Evaluation and treatment are performed by occupational therapists &/or physical therapists.
- Designed to be part of wider programs that also include communication, behavioral and educational therapies.
- To learn about occupational therapy and sensory integration therapy can work together, please see How Occupational Therapy Helps with Sensory Integration Issues.
- Speech therapy can assess and treat communication disorders.
- By improving specific areas of communication, speech therapy is able to improve overall social skills in people with ASD.
- A speech therapist can help people with ASD by:
- Strengthening facial muscles
- Articulating speech sounds
- Understanding body language
- Matching facial expressions to emotion
- Responding to questions
- Modulating tone
- Speech therapists also aid with feeding and swallowing challenges.
- After evaluation by a speech therapist, an individualized plan is formed for patients, and therapy sessions can begin. Sessions can occur in several settings :
- Private clinics
- Schools – as part of an Individualized Education Program (IEP)
- Sign language, PECS, and other forms of alternative augmentative communication can also be a part of treatment.
- Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC):
- AAC is communication that is used in place of speech when language is absent or not functional.
- AAC is augmentative in that it can be used to supplement existing speech.
- In ASD, AAC improves existing language and is a tool to help patients acquire expressive and receptive language.
- AAC can also help with literacy development.
- To learn more about speech therapy, see the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)-Certified Speech-Language Pathologist and Autism Spectrum Disorder flyer: https://www.asha.org/siteassets/uploadedfiles/asha-slp-asd-flyer.pdf
- Floortime is an alternative treatment to ABA therapy that focuses on 6 key milestones in childhood development to improve autism symptoms.
- The 6 key milestones of floortime are:
- Self-regulation and interest in the world
- Engagement in relationships
- Two-way communication
- Complex communication
- Emotional ideas
- Emotional thinking
- Through focusing on emotional development, floortime is thought to work indirectly on speech, motor, and cognitive skills.
- Therapy sessions involve therapists and parents engaging children through enjoyable activities that emphasize back-and-forth play and expand circles of communication. Back-and-forth play develops the foundation for shared attention and engagement.
- Providers are able to continually monitor the child’s development, forming a better picture of where the child is developmentally
- Sessions also include training for parents and caregivers on how to help children with ASD maintain focus. Parents are more hands-on in floortime therapy and receive guidance on how to update play for their child’s individualized needs from a therapist.
- Floortime therapy can be done by child psychologists, special education teachers, speech therapists, and occupational therapists
- Parents can also learn techniques through workshops provided by Greenspan Floortime for Parents
- To learn more about floortime, please see Explaining DIR/Floortime.
Verbal Behavior Therapy:
- Through the principles of BF Skinner and using ABA methods, verbal behavior therapy teaches communication and language skills by helping children with ASD connect words with their purpose – meaning that words can allow children to get things that they want or to communicate ideas.
- Verbal Behavior Therapy uses a method called “errorless learning.” In errorless learning, therapists encourage patients to use words by providing prompts. For instance, if a therapist is trying to teach a child to ask for a book, the therapist may start by hold the book in front of the child and say “book.” Over time, rather than say “book,” the therapist may prompt the child by making a “b” sound. The goal of this training is to have the child ask for the book unprompted (having associated the word “book” with the physical object).
- The prompts are reduced over time, and the student eventually no longer needs prompting to provide the correct response
- Most programs involve at least 1 to 3 hours of therapy per week, which is a lesser time commitment than most other intervention programs.
- To learn more about Verbal Behavior Therapy, please see Autism Speaks Verbal Behavior Therapy
- For an example of a Verbal Behavior Therapy session, please watch ABA Therapy – Verbal Reasoning Skills.
Where can you find EI providers?
- Babies Can’t Wait
- Provides services for children from birth through 3 years old.
- Provides early identification and screening in children with developmental delays.
- Support family members and caregivers to improve developmental outcomes.
- Children 1st
- Provides service for children from birth through 5 years old.
- Children 1st connect children with suspected developmental delays (such as ASD) with EI services and other public health services.
- Children 1st Screening and Referral Form
Scientific Articles Reviewing Early Intervention Efficacy:
- Early Intervention with Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Review of Programs
- School-Age Outcomes of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder Who Received Community-Based Early Interventions
- School-Age Outcomes of Children Diagnosed Early and Later with Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Pre-emptive intervention versus treatment as usual for infants showing early behavioral risk signs of autism spectrum disorder: a single-blind, randomized controlled trial
Georgia Transportation Services
Getting to doctor’s appointments when you have ASD or have a child with ASD can be tough! Fortunately, Georgia has transportation services and options that can help no matter where you live. If you don’t drive or have a car, please consider the options below to get you to your next appointment:
- Georgia Medicaid offers non-emergency transportation to help people with disabilities get to their medical appointments. Georgia Medicaid also serves rural communities.
- Georgia Care Planning Council is a website that lists resources to help families plan for the long-term care of a loved one with disabilities. They list eldercare transportation services that may be able to help individuals with ASD, and list Georgia transportation services.
- Through the Georgia Department of Transportation, Georgia Commute Options offers accessibility services for people with disabilities as well as training for how to use their transportation options for people in the Atlanta area.
- If you live in a rural county, the Georgia Department of Transportation lists counties with a transportation system here. You can also find a state-wide list of transportation services with contact information here.
- Certain healthcare providers may offer Lyft Concierge services for patient travel. Lyft Concierge enables providers to schedule and organize rides on behalf of patients. Lyft rides can be scheduled ahead of time for individuals in rural areas with a trip distance limit of 100 miles. Ask your healthcare provider about this service.
- Uber offers Uber Health, which may also be an option.
Obtaining a driver’s license
- If you’re over 16 years old and have ASD you may be able to get a driver’s license. Currently, there are no laws that prevent persons with autism from driving.
- The Georgia DDS requires a note from a physician that specifies what accommodations their patient would need for the driving test.
For some people with ASD, receiving treatment using telehealth options might be the best way to go. Telehealth is a way for doctors to provide consultations and therapies to patients using electronic devices (iPads, tablets, smartphones, home computers, etc . . . ). For families with an autistic child, telehealth can save on transportation costs and can be done from the comfort of home. As a note, while telehealth can be a wonderful way for people with ASD to receive treatment, it should always be done under the guidance of a physician. Please see below for a list of telehealth options:
- Services Atlanta, Cumming, Dublin, Lithonia, and Suwanee
- Providers offer Home-based/Comprehensive or Focused ABA therapy, parent education and training, social skills programs, and Telehealth Services.
- Services through Telehealth include
- Parent Coaching & Behavior Management Support
- Supervision of In-home ABA Sessions
- Functional Behavioral Assessments
- Behavior technician sessions
- Group Therapy
- Early Autism Services offers telehealth options for ABA therapy using electronic devices for families who live in rural areas.
- Early Autism Services offers guidance for parents, behavior assessments, therapeutic services, and supervision of therapy services through telehealth.
- These telehealth ABA services may be a right fit for families if:
- They are in a remote location
- Parents schedules have limited availability
- The child’s behavior changes when being watched
- If parents/guardians reside in separate locations but both want to participate in the child’s therapy sessions.
- Early Autism offers a free consultation to get started.
Voices for Georgia’s Children:
- Voices for Georgia’s Children is an independent organization devoted to statewide systemic change, advocating for Georgia’s 2.5 million children – particularly those affected by difficulties associated with location, race, family income, mental health, disabilities, and life or community circumstances. They advance laws and policies to improve those families’ lives.
- Voices for Georgia’s Children’s ‘Healthy Minds and Bodies’ initiative is concerned with creating access to quality healthcare and insurance for children.
- Areas of concern include: increasing insurance coverage for children, improving access to behavioral healthcare for children, increasing healthcare access through school-based programs and telemedicine programs.
- Voices for Georgia’s Children’s is working on a school-based telemedicine project in partnership with Emory University
If you would like to know more about school-based telehealth, please see Voices for Georgia’s Children school-based telehealth fact sheet. If you would like to know more about health issues that concern children, please see Voices for Georgia’s Children fact sheet section.
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta:
- CHOA’s Telemedicine program allows patients to connect with specialists through virtual visits.
- En Espanol: El sitio web tiene versiones de las instrucciones y formularios de registro en espanol
What if I don’t have internet at home?
Telehealth can be a great option for people with ASD in rural areas, but what if you don’t have internet access? Certain telecommunication companies have enacted programs to help people in low-service areas get internet access. Please see below for a list of options that may help you get online.
- The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program
- Lifeline Verifier: Lifeline is a federal benefit that allows a lower monthly cost to consumers for phone or internet service.
- Telecommunication companies such as Charter use Lifeline to verify that households qualify for service
- Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Broadband Benefit Program
- In May 2021, Charter announced its participation in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, part of the company’s ongoing commitment to help close the digital divide. Applicable households will be eligible for a credit up to $50 per month (up to $75 for households on Tribal Lands) toward qualifying Spectrum Internet plans for the duration of the program.
- Charter is offering a variety of broadband options under the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, and all Spectrum Internet plans available have no modem fees, data caps, or contracts and include free self-installation.
- Household qualification criteria: income level and eligibility for the National School Lunch Program (or the Community Eligibility Provision of the NSLP), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
- Emergency Broadband Benefit:
- This is a program constructed by the FCC to help families receive and afford internet services during the pandemic.
- A household is eligible if:
- Their income is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
- If it participates in assistance programs: s SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline
- They have been approved for benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program
- Received a Federal Pell Grant. This must be during the current award year.
- Experienced a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020
- The household has had a total income at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers in 2020
- Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.
- Georgia Department of Community Affairs: GA Broadband
- In 2018 Georgia launched the Georgia Broadband Program. This was created to promote the deployment of broadband services throughout the state to unserved areas with a minimum of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds. This was a specific concern for rural communities that remained without access to high-speed internet.
- Through the Georgia Broadband Program, the Georgia Broadband Map was completed on June 15, 2021. The map is created by overlaying: (1) all the locations of homes and businesses in the State of Georgia, and (2) broadband provider service availability for those locations within the State.
- Communities within Georgia can apply for improved broadband internet access By visiting the Broadband Community Application page and filling out an application.
- List/Map of areas that offer Public WIFI in Georgia. If driving to a location near you that has free wifi would be more convenient, please see the map of public wifi locations.
- Options for free internet on mobile phone
- What if I don’t have a computer?
- Internet Essentials offers customers the option of purchasing computing devices at the discounted price of $149.99.
ASD Fact or Fiction!
There is a lot of information about ASD out there. Any Google search for ASD therapies or treatments will give you a nearly overwhelming number of things to try that “parents swear by.” But how do you know if they’re safe? And, will those therapies actually work? Here we evaluated how scientifically-backed some of the more popular hypotheses of ASD, diets for ASD, and non-medical ASD treatments were.
Do vaccines cause ASD?
- Vaccines DO NOT cause Autism! There is no credible evidence to suggest that the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine or any childhood vaccination causes autism. Multiple studies have been conducted concerning the safety of childhood vaccinations and their link to autism, but no connection has been found.
- Do Preservatives in Vaccines Cause Autism? Since the Anti-Vaxx movement began, some have called into question the use of thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative, in vaccines. After many studies concerning the safety of thimerosal, the scientific community determined that thimerosal is safe to use in vaccines and does not cause autism. Even though it is safe, thimerosal was removed or reduced to small amounts from almost all childhood vaccines as a precaution.
- What Started the Anti-Vaccination (Anti-Vax) Movement?
- In 1998, the former Dr. Andrew Wakefield published a paper where he claimed that the MMR vaccine may cause autism. Thus began the anti-vaxx movement. The original paper that began this movement was flawed. In fact, the publisher later redacted this paper. Andrew Wakefield’s medical license was revoked as a result of the errors in this paper, and the scientific and medical communities rejected his claims about vaccines. Since the late 1990’s many studies have been conducted to determine whether or not there is a link between autism and vaccines and to confirm the safety of vaccines.
You can read more about the history of vaccines and the history of the anti-vax movement here.
Read more about the flaws of the Wakefield study in more detail here.
More Resources on Vaccines and Thimerosal: Below is a list of scientific studies and resources that examined whether or not there was a link between autism and vaccines. The consistent conclusion was that there is no link between ASD and vaccines.
- Vaccines and Autism: A Tale of Shifting Hypotheses. This review was written to address three specific concerns that have been raised:
- Does the MMR vaccine cause autism?
- Does thimerosal, a preservative sometimes used in vaccines, cause autism?
- Do vaccines simultaneously weaken a child’s immune system?
- Vaccines and Autism: A Tale of Shifting Hypotheses. This review was written to address three specific concerns that have been raised:
This paper looks at many different studies and determined that:
- The MMR vaccine does not cause autism.
- Thimerosal does not cause autism.
- Giving multiple vaccines at once is safe and does not overwhelm or weaken the immune system.
This website provides links to many studies that investigated whether vaccines caused autism if preservatives in vaccines caused autism, and other questions concerned parents may have.
Here the CDC writes about the safety of vaccines and thimerosal. They also provide a list of scientific articles for further reading about vaccine safety.
This informational poster provides summaries and citations to many of the studies conducted on the safety of thimerosal.
The Importance of Vaccinations
- Protecting Your Child: By vaccinating your child, you are helping her immune system learn to recognize and fight off an illness before she even gets sick. Vaccines are a safe and effective way to protect a person from deadly and/or life-altering illnesses.
You can learn more about the importance of vaccinations here!
- Protecting the Community: Vaccinations not only protect the vaccinated individual, but they help protect the community from the disease as well! When many people are vaccinated in a community, it becomes harder for diseases to spread from one person to another. This concept is called “herd immunity.” Herd immunity is important because it helps protect those who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons. By vaccinating yourself and your family, you are helping prevent the spread of disease in your community!
You can learn more about herd immunity below:
Gastrointestinal (GI) issues are frequently reported in people with ASD. As a result, it has been suggested that special diets may help alleviate GI discomfort and improve ASD symptoms generally.
- Diet and Nutritional Challenges for those with ASD
- Nutritional Deficiencies: Nutritional deficiencies are very common in kids with ASD. This can be because children with ASD may have a preference for specific foods and reject other food, leaving them with a limited diet. These unbalanced diets can lead to various kinds of holes in your child’s nutrition.
- Gastrointestinal (GI) Symptoms: GI issues are common among children with ASD. Common symptoms include: stomach pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
- Food Sensitivities: In some cases, the GI issues mentioned above may be the result of food sensitivity, which is common in children with ASD. Some of the more common food sensitivities are casein and gluten.
- Gluten-Free Casein-Free Diet (GFCF)
- What is Casein? Casein is a protein found in milks, eggs, yogurts, cheeses and other dairy products. Some individuals may be sensitive to this protein, causing GI issues. If casein is what is irritating an individual’s stomach, then a casein-free diet may relieve some of the symptoms.
- What is Gluten? Gluten is a wheat protein found in many breads. Crackers, baked goods and cereals also contain gluten since many of these foods contain wheat products. Celiac disease, an autoimmune reaction to gluten, is common among those with autism.
- Why are Gluten-Free Casein-Free Diets Popular? Gluten and casein sensitivities are common among those with autism. Some parents have claimed this diet has helped relieve some of their child’s GI symptoms. Parents have also claimed that the GFCF diet helped improve their child’s ability to concentrate and alleviated repetitive behaviors.
- What do the Experts Say about the GFCF Diet? While a few parents have claimed improvements to their child’s behavior and GI symptoms, multiple studies have shown that the GFCF diet has no impact on improving GI symptoms nor behavioral issues. Experts do not recommend starting on this diet unless your child has a casein or gluten sensitivity. There is a possible risk of nutrient deficiency due to the restrictive nature of this diet. Always speak to your doctor or a nutritionist before changing your child’s diet.
See Here For More Resources for the GFCF Diet.
See Here for a review paper that explains the science behind the GFCF diet and discusses its efficacy.
- Why do people try Sugar-Free Diets? Many children with autism also have hyperactivity disorders such as ADHD. Some believe that this hyperactivity can be linked to the amount of sugar consumed. Some parents have claimed that a sugar-free diet has helped their child’s hyperactivity disorder. Because of this, some parents claim to have success in alleviating behavioral issues their child with ASD may have.
- What do the Experts Say about Sugar-Free Diets? There is very little research to back up these claims that a sugar-free diet helps those with autism. In fact, the link between hyperactivity disorders and sugar intake is still being investigated. Some research shows that the consumption of high sugar foods had no effect on hyperactivity in children. Other research suggests a link between insulin release and autism. Much more research needs to be done before the scientific community can make a final conclusion about the effect of a sugar-free diet on autistic or hyperactive children. Always speak with your physician before changing your child’s diet.
Ketogenic Diet (KD):
- What is a ketogenic diet? A ketogenic diet consists of a high fat, low carbohydrate diet. By consuming a high amount of fat and a low amount of carbohydrates, the body uses the fats to create a substance called “ketone bodies,” which the brain uses for energy. You may have heard of this kind of diet before. In recent years, it has become a popular diet for weight loss but has also been shown to have the potential for helping those who have ASD and/or epilepsy.
- Why do some parents try a ketogenic diet for children with ASD? Individuals with autism can sometimes also have epilepsy (recurrent seizures). Alongside other preventative measures and/ or medications, a ketogenic diet has been shown to help prevent seizures in some. In addition, some studies have shown that a ketogenic diet helped improve their child’s behavioral symptoms. Because of these two things, some parents try the ketogenic diet in hopes of preventing seizures in their child and to help better the behavioral symptoms associated with ASD.
- What do the experts say about a ketogenic diet? Studies have shown a ketogenic diet to be beneficial in helping to prevent seizures when used alongside other preventable treatments like anti-seizure medications. Some studies have also reported that a ketogenic diet improved behavioral symptoms in children with ASD. Scientists believe this diet helps those with ASD by decreasing inflammation, balancing out certain neurotransmitters in the brain, and regulating bacteria in the gut. Overall, the ketogenic diet shows promise as a therapy for ASD.
- Are there any risks to starting a ketogenic diet? While a ketogenic diet as a therapy for ASD does sound promising, some side effects of this diet have been noted. Always speak with your doctor or nutritionist before changing your child’s diet.
- Common side effects in children: GI issues such as constipation and vomiting, lack of energy, complaints of hunger
- Risk of nutritional deficiencies: Many children with ASD are picky eaters and only eat a limited number of foods. Because of the restrictive nature of this diet, they may be even more limited in the foods that they eat, leading to nutritional deficits.
- Long-term use of this diet in older individuals may lead to High cholesterol, hyperuricemia (high amounts of uric acid in the blood), and kidney stones
- What are probiotics? Proponents of probiotics advocate for ingesting amounts of live “good” bacteria and/or yeast to promote good health. In particular, probiotics are thought to restore or improve the microbiota of the gut. Though probiotics are generally thought to be safe, it is important to consult with your primary care provider prior to starting probiotics to ensure that they could be of benefit in treating GI symptoms.
- Why do some people with ASD use probiotics? Compared to their typically developing peers, children and adults with ASD tend to have more GI symptoms, such as abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea. One concern regarding the health of children with ASD is the tendency to only eat a few foods (selective eating), sometimes preferring processed foods to fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Using probiotics has been shown to help and prevent and relieve GI symptoms experienced by those with ASD. In addition, recent studies have recognized a microbiota-gut-brain axis as a key modulator of neuropsychiatric health-improving general health, depression, anxiety, and stress. Probiotics have beneficial effects regardless of ASD diagnosis and could be helpful in relieving some of the GI symptoms present. Encouraging a balanced healthy diet is also helpful in preventing GI distress.
- For more information about probiotics, please see the articles below:
- What is music therapy? Music therapy is the clinical use of music to accomplish individual goals such as reducing stress, improving mood and self-expression. It is an evidence-based therapy that may include listening, singing, composing music, or play instruments.
- Does music therapy work? There is evidence both supporting and denying the efficacy of music therapy. Research supporting music therapy claims that it reduces anxiety and can alleviate social problems in children with ASD. However, other studies found that music therapy has no effect on improving social flexibility, responsiveness, or attentiveness. It is also possible that different people may achieve different results with intervention. It is important to note that music therapy should be discussed with your primary care provider to ensure efficacy and proper utilization of this intervention.
To learn more about music therapy in ASD, please see the articles below:
- Music therapy for people with autism spectrum disorder
- Summary: This study assessed music therapy in those with autism spectrum disorder in randomized controlled trials with groups consisting of music therapy, standard care, and no treatment. The findings of this updated review provide evidence that music therapy may help children with ASD to improve their skills in primary outcome areas that constitute the core of the condition including social interaction, verbal communication, initiating behavior, and social-emotional reciprocity. Music therapy may also help to enhance non-verbal communication skills within the therapy context. Furthermore, in secondary outcome areas, music therapy may contribute to increasing social adaptation skills in children with ASD and to promoting the quality of parent-child relationships. In contrast to the studies included in an earlier version of this review published in 2006, the new studies included in this update enhanced the applicability of findings to clinical practice. More research using larger samples and generalized outcome measures is needed to corroborate these findings and to examine whether the effects of music therapy are enduring. When applying the results of this review to practice, it is important to note that the application of music therapy requires specialized academic and clinical training.
- Music interventions for children with autism: a narrative review of the literature
- Summary: This is a literature review emphasizing the contradiction in support of music therapy in those with ASD. After searching relevant databases, 128 articles were identified, of which, 20 articles met the study’s inclusion criteria. Composed songs and improvisational music therapy were the predominant music techniques used. There was somewhat limited evidence to support the use of music interventions under certain conditions to facilitate social, communicative, and behavioral skills in young children with autism. The implications of these findings in terms of the use of music interventions, issues related to generalization and maintenance, and future research are discussed.
- The Effect of Music Therapy and Aromatherapy with Chamomile-Lavender Essential Oil on the Anxiety of Clinical Nurses: A Randomized and Double-Blind Clinical Trial.
- Summary: This study aimed to determine the anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects of music therapy, lavender essential oil, and chamomile essential oil. The study was performed by nurses and measured anxiety after usage of the targeted methods. Results showed that the interventions of music therapy and chamomile-lavender essential oil could reduce the anxiety of the participants and were recommended for use.
- What is Animal Therapy? Animal therapy is utilized based on the pre-existing human-animal bond. Animal therapy has been shown to have a beneficial effect on various physical and mental conditions. Studies show that it can help reduce blood pressure and improve overall cardiovascular health.
- Does it help people with ASD? One aspect of animal therapy that may benefit those with ASD is that this intervention can trigger a release of endorphins, which can produce a calming effect. It should be noted, however, that credible positive research for animal therapy is sparse and that support animals may come with safety, sanitation, and allergies concerns.
- Is it safe? Accredited organizations that perform animal therapy have processes for ensuring that animal therapy is suitable for individuals with ASD and treatment is personalized for each patient. Consultation with your primary care provider is essential to find an appropriate animal accustomed to each. When contacting animal therapy providers, ask about their qualifications.
- If you would like to learn more about music therapy in ASD, please see the articles below:
- Pet Therapy
- Animal-assisted Intervention for Autism
- Summary: Research is conducted by OHAIRE Lab at Purdue University about animal therapy benefits to those with ASD. Some reasons researched and supported by this source are positive effects on social facilitation, attentional focus, and nonjudgmental companions. The source states the need for high-quality research supporting this intervention and how to further rigorous research is underway.
- Autism and Equine-Assisted Interventions: A Systematic Mapping Review
- Summary: This systematic mapping review organized current knowledge of equine-assisted interventions for people with autism to help guide future practice and research. The study stated that although literature reflected early scientific development, it offered broad proof of concept that equine-assisted interventions can benefit children and adolescents with ASD.
- Autism and Equine-Assisted Interventions: A Systematic Mapping Review
- Companion animals and human health: benefits, challenges, and the road ahead for human-animal interaction
- Summary: This study emphasizes the benefits and challenges of human-animal interaction associated with health. The health benefits demonstrated typically include reductions in depression and loneliness while enhancing social interaction or social skills, and decreasing anxiety and arousal. Other benefits are the encouragement and promotion of physical activity or exercise. Problems associated with human-animal interactions are high expense, allergies, asthma, zoonoses, animal bites and scratches, and human falls. There are inconsistent policies permitting animals into public places as well as housing developments. The study states that additional research is necessary to evaluate the efficacy of each type of animal therapy intervention on the overall health of humans.
- Companion animals and human health: benefits, challenges, and the road ahead for human-animal interaction
- Essential Oils and ASD: Some people consider the use of essential oils to be a useful holistic care method. A variety of essential oils have been suggested as possible remedies for ASD symptoms. There is minimal research on the beneficial effects of essential oils on individuals with ASD.
- There are claims by parents of children with ASD that the essential oils listed below can potentially reduce behaviors such as anger, anxiety, attention deficit, hyperactivity, sensory overload, sleep issues, and meltdowns. With the use of any essential oils, there is a risk of allergic reaction. Essential oils should not be ingested, applied undiluted to the skin, or overused. All essential oils are not regulated by the FDA; therefore, it is important to speak with your healthcare provider prior to use of the following:
- Vetiver is an essential oil used as aromatherapy that could help treat nervousness, insomnia, and joint and muscle pain. There is little accredited research done to prove vetiver aromatherapy as a beneficial holistic care method for individuals with ASD; however, it has been shown to have some antimicrobial factors as well as positive effects on insomnia
- Cedarwood is an essential oil used as aromatherapy originally to prevent moths from eating clothing and repelling ants. Further research revealed that it may benefit acne treatment, antibiotic activity, pain relief, decrease swelling, decrease inflammation, stress relief, anxiety relief. Research has also suggested that cedarwood can promote better sleep and help lengthen sleeping time when used with a diffuser. EPA states there are no safety concerns with use. Essential oils can cause skin irritations; however, few have been reported with cosmetics use. There is minimal accredited research supporting the benefits for individuals with ASD; however, the benefits discovered could show beneficial results for poor sleep and anxiety.
- Frankincense is aromatherapy that is still being researched but has shown promising results in calming and relaxing, promoting higher levels of consciousness, and regenerating cells. Many essential oils used as aromatherapies are not regulated by the FDA and could cause allergic reactions when used on the skin. Small doses are encouraged when applied to the skin and when used as aromatherapy. The research for this essential oil is in its early stages, and doctors are not ready to make wide-ranging declarations about the effectiveness of frankincense on an ongoing basis. Speaking with your primary care physician prior to use is encouraged prior to use.
- Lavender is an essential oil used for calming and relaxing, improving sleep, promoting healing, relieving pain, having antibacterial properties, and potentially improving memory. The research involving lavender and individuals with ASD have mixed results supporting its effectiveness at improving sleep, although some parents support putting a few drops in bathwater prior to bed. With all essential oils, there is a risk of allergic reactions; therefore, spot testing and beginning with small amounts is encouraged. Lavender can be inhaled or applied to the skin as a lotion. When applying to the skin, it is encouraged for the oil to be diluted and not potent to prevent skin irritation.
- Mandarin is an essential oil used for its beneficial effects attributed to specific properties such as antispasmodic, antiseptic, digestive, nervous relaxant, and sedative. It can be used with a diffuser as aromatherapy or applied to the skin. There is a potential for skin irritation; therefore, essential oils should not be applied to the skin undiluted or ingested. If applied to the skin, it is important to ensure the oil is not oxidized to prevent irritation, and the oil is confirmed not to be phototoxic. Research on Mandarin essential oil and ASD; however, parents have claimed that it is particularly easy to use as aromatherapy for anxiolytic purposes because the children are fond of the scent.
- Peppermint is an essential oil used for GI distress, sinus congestion relief, anxiety relief, decrease in sensory overload, and headaches. There have been possible side effects noted with ingestion such as heartburn, flushing of the skin, headache, mouth sores, and diarrhea. A small dosage is recommended as well as consultation with primary care providers prior to use. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid use due to little research performed about their safety during pregnancy and lactation. Research is lacking in the benefits of peppermint essential oil and individuals with ASD. There are potential benefits claimed by parents praising the calming effects and cooling sensations on the body.
- Ylang ylang is an essential oil used for its positive effects on human emotions, alleviating anxiety, and increasing blood flow to parts of the body. As with any essential oil, it is imperative to dilute the essential oil prior to application on the skin. Ylang ylang essential oil has been linked to contact dermatitis, and it has been proven to be poisonous to dogs and cats. Research on ylang ylang essential oils in relation to individuals with ASD is limited, so the effects and benefits are not definite.
- Bergamot is an essential oil used in aromatherapy helping to create a feeling of joy, freshness, and energy by improving blood circulation. Practitioners of aromatherapy believe that inhaling essential oils or absorbing through the skin transmits signals to the limbic system (the region of the brain that regulates emotions and memories). Some of the main uses of bergamot essential oil are acne, anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome, headache, insomnia, and depression. The evidence supporting these claims is weak and only has a few positive findings in small clinical studies. As with any essential oil, topical application can cause skin irritation and should be diluted. Research with Bergamot essential oil and individuals with ASD yield varying results; therefore, the benefits of this essential oil in improving anxiety and sensory overload are questionable.
- Chamomile is a popular essential oil for its various claims to have anti-inflammatory effects, pain-reducing abilities, anxiety relief, sleep improvement, congestion relief, and improvement in digestion. There is limited accredited research on the benefits of chamomile essential oil and individuals with ASD. Studies supporting various claims such as GI support, improvements with generalized anxiety disorder, depression reduction, and sleep aid may have some benefits to those with ASD. Consultation with your primary care provider is encouraged prior to use.
The lives of people with autism can become very medicalized – doctors and parents can spend a lot of time and effort finding the right doctors for a child with autism, making sure they are on the right medications, and making sure they have the right accommodations at school. Staying healthy can be hard work, but people with autism also deserve to have some fun! In this section, we list things that can make people with autism more comfortable and places that take steps to accommodate people with sensory processing issues (which are common in people with autism).
Since many people with autism have sensory processing issues, they may find certain types of clothing uncomfortable. Below are some clothing brands that offer adaptive clothing options (clothing with flat seams and no tags) that were created with people who have sensory processing issues in mind.
Cat & Jack Clothing: Cat & Jack offers adaptive kids clothing options and is available at Target.
Smart Knit Kids – Seamless socks and undergarments that may be more comfortable for those with sensory sensitivities.
Kozie Clothes – Medical, compression, and weighted clothing for children.
Fun and Function – Sensory Clothing, can filter by diagnosis, age, and condition the clothing helps.
Does your child have a hard time getting dressed? Would you like to know more about sensory issues and clothing? Please read: What Should You Do About Sensory Issues with Clothing?
Toys and Sensory Items
Kids with autism can sometimes have trouble staying focused in school. The companies below sell toys and sensory aids that can help!
Tools for School! – Sensory Kids Guide
Sensory Goods: Autism Sensory Products | Autism Tools & Equipment
Therapro – Aids for daily living
GPS devices can help track the location of kids with autism who are likely to elope or who are nonverbal and cannot ask for help when lost.
- Jiobit: More than a GPS Tracker for Kids
- AngelSense: GPS Tracker for Kids: Angel Sense also has a blog for parents of autistic children and a newsletter which gives advice concerning tips, resources, and financial assistance.
The events listed below benefit people with autism and/or make accommodations for people with sensory processing issues.
GA Race for Autism: The Georgia Race for Autism is a USATF certified and Peachtree Road Race qualifying 5K and 10K race. There will also be a 1 Mile Fun Run, 100-yard Dash, and Tot Trot on the same day. Fun for the whole family with a Fall Festival and plenty of vendor and resource tables.
Six Flags: Six Flags offers low sensory zones for families with autistic/special need children and has been designated a Certified Autism Center. Families and caregivers can request accommodations and obtain an individual accessibility card through the attraction accessibility website.
Chuck E Cheese: On the first Sunday of every month participating locations support families and kids with ASD and other special needs in creating a time where their children can enjoy being a kid. These locations will open two hours earlier during those days and offer a less crowded environment, dim lighting and lower music, limited appearances by Chuck E and no admission fee.
Some grocery stores support “sensory sensitive shopping”
- Some Target stores offer “quiet hours” from 6am to 8am on Saturdays for sensory sensitive shopping.
- Target also offers sensory friendly & adaptive kids’ home decor & furniture
- Many stores are now offering ordering online and picking up at the store or same day delivery.
There are also a variety of summer camps in Georgia that specialize in helping children with autism or other developmental delays experience the great outdoors!
Victory Junction: A “Serious Fun” Camp! A camp for children ages six to sixteen which receives kids from all 50 states. It’s mission is to enrich the lives of children with chronic medical conditions and/or serious illnesses by providing life changing experiences in a medically safe environment. The camp is at no cost to the camper or their family.
Spectrum Camps & Clubs – SPECTRUM: Serves ages 4 years old through young adulthood. Spectrum welcomes a wide range of children on the autism spectrum, from high functioning individuals to those needing significant support.
Camp You B You Sleepaway Camp: This is an overnight camp held by the Marcus Autism Center at Camp Twin lakes in Winder, GA in July for a week. The camp is open for children ages 8-16 with high functioning autism. With a 5 to 1 camper to leader ratio, this camp allows the children to participate in traditional activities and experiences in a supported environment. The camp costs between $375 (general) and $400 (leaders in training).
- Frequently asked questions: https://www.marcus.org/events-and-workshops/you-b-you-sleepaway-camp/camp-you-b-you-sleep-away-camp-faq
- Camper Eligibility Criteria: https://www.marcus.org/events-and-workshops/you-b-you-sleepaway-camp/camp-you-b-you-camper-eligibility-criteria
Camp Dream: Camp Dream’s mission is to improve the quality of life of moderate to severely disabled individuals with special needs. To do so, they offer a recreational summer camp and camp out program for children and young adults with developmental and physical disabilities. They offer a 1:1 camp to counselor ratio and offer donor financial support for families unable to pay for the camp experience. The camp is held at their Camp Grace facility located in rural Roberta, GA.
Social Skills Summer Camp: Therapy and Learning Center of Georgia located in Roswell, GA offers a social skills day camp for children with ADHD, Aspergers/High Functioning Autism, Language and Learning Disabilities and Social Anxiety. There is a 3:1 camper to counselor ratio, each day will have planned outings and there will be 90 minutes of group therapy per day. Day Camp is Monday-Friday 9:30am-3:30pm.
The Rockdale County Autism Support Group lists a number of summer day and overnight camps for individuals with special needs, including those with ASD. Here are a few that specifically cater to children with ASD:
- Learning on the Log | Where Social Skills Means Building Relationships : Sensory based recreational program for children with autism.
- Social Skills Today – Social Skills Programs for Youth and Adults with Communication, Sensory Integration, Social Interaction, and Behavioral needs : Offers day, overnight, and weekend camps for children with ASD.
Book List and Reading Resources on ASD
Would you like to read about different peoples’ experience with autism? Below you’ll find books written by people with autism or by people with autistic people in their lives. We list books about autism for caregivers, children, adolescents, and adults.
The Autism Support Network has a list of books as resources for parents and Caregivers. They can be found here: Books for parents & caregivers
Parents and Caregivers:
The Breakaway: A Parent’s Guide to Transitioning the Autistic and Twice Exceptional Adolescent Into Young Adulthood
What About Me?: A Book By and For An Autism Sibling
Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism
Nathan’s Autism Spectrum Superpowers (One Three Nine Inspired)
Uniquely Wired: A Story About Autism and Its Gifts
All My Stripes: A Story for Children With Autism
Too Sticky!: Sensory Issues with Autism
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin (Amazing Scientists, 1)
Asperger’s and Adulthood: A Guide to Working, Loving, and Living With Asperger’s Syndrome
The Social Survival Guide for Teens on the Autism Spectrum: How to Make Friends and
Young Adults & Adults:
Love and Asperger’s: Practical Strategies To Help Couples Understand Each Other and Strengthen Their Connection
Books by Authors with Autism:
Aspergirls: Empowering Females with Asperger Syndrome
The Asperkid’s Not-Your-Average Coloring-Book
The Outdoor Scientist: The Wonder of Observing the Natural World
For Young Adults:
Sisterhood of the Spectrum: An Asperger Chick’s Guide to Life
The Aspie Teen Survival’s Guide: Candid Advice for Teens, Tweens, and Parents, from a Young Man with Asperger’s Syndrome
Books for Adults:
What Autism Gave Me: A Devastating Diagnosis To A Triumphant Life
The Autistic Brain: Helping Different Kinds of Minds Succeed
Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s
The Secret Life of a Black Aspie: A Memoir