Therapy for autism in children

An early autism diagnosis mean you can start the therapy that will help give your child the best possible start in life.

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Therapies for children with autism aim to reduce behaviours that affect day to day activities and can impact a child’s quality of life.

Autism is a neurological difference that is lifelong and presents in lots of different ways. Some people with autism have difficulty interacting and communicating with others, have narrow interests, show repetitive behaviours and show other signs like being sensitive to taste, touch, light and sounds.

No two people with autism are the same, and there a broad spectrum of needs. This means that each person’s therapy and approach will be unique to their specific needs and goals.

Working together with the family and being involved in all approaches is a big part of any autism support. This can happen in schools, our premises, community centres and home, and usually it’s in a combination of all of these.

If you have recently received an autism diagnosis or have concerns about your child’s development, Early Start Australia offer assessments and a range of evidence-based early intervention therapies to support children with autism.

To learn more about therapy for autism in children or to book an appointment contact your nearest Early Start Australia clinic.

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Types of therapies and support available for children with autism

Every child with autism has different needs, and any therapy will be an individualised approach to address them.

There are evidence-based pathways in early intervention, such as ABA or ESDM. And common approaches that help are Psychology, Occupational Therapy, Speech Pathology and behaviour therapists.

There are many different approaches for the treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but there are a few general categories, and chances are your child will receive a combination.


Behavioural approaches focus on changing behaviours by understanding what happens before and after the behaviour.


Developmental approaches focus on improving specific developmental skills, such as language skills or physical skills.


Educational treatments are given in a classroom setting, with teachers adjusting the classroom structure to improve academic and other outcomes.


Social-relational treatments focus on improving social skills and social interaction, and building emotional bonds and can involve parents or peer mentors.


Some medications treat symptoms that can help people function better. For example, to manage high energy levels, inability to focus, or self-harming behaviour, as well as co-occurring psychological conditions, such as anxiety or depression.


Psychological approaches can help people with ASD cope with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. For example, Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy (CBT) can change how the person thinks about a situation to change how they react to it.

Complementary and alternative

Some treatments are used to supplement more traditional approaches, such as special diets, herbal supplements, chiropractic care, animal therapy, art therapy, mindfulness, or relaxation therapies.

Autism FAQs

Treatment all depends on what their highest needs are. For example, if anxiety is most pressing, then psychology might be the best place to start. If sensory needs are really impacting everyday circumstances, then an occupational therapist would be the go-to professional.

You may notice some differences in your child’s development early on. Some children show a lot of signs, others only a few. Very often it’s a delay in speech, communication, or social skills that you’ll notice.

A child with autism might

  • Not smile in response to others, look at you as much, make eye contact or use gestures
  • Not show interest in other children or have trouble making friends
  • Repeat everything they hear or show other repetitive behaviours
  • Talk in an unusual tone of voice
  • Have trouble understanding and following instructions

There are lots of different pathways to starting the journey and assessment. If you are concerned about your child’s development, the first step is to speak to a health professional. This can be your GP or paediatrician, a health nurse, a speech pathologist, an occupational therapist, psychologist or other health professional.

The best approach is to get a multi-disciplinary assessment involving a psychologist, speech pathologist and paediatrician. It’s important to look at all areas of need to get an accurate diagnosis, which gives you the best picture of what’s going on and how best to help your child.

Some signs might be missed, and many other conditions can look like autism to begin with, so a thorough assessment and diagnostic process from the outset is recommended.

In the past, various terms were used to describe autism (ASD), such as autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder. Now there’s a single diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that replaces the different sub-categories, although some people prefer to say autism spectrum condition because it’s not a disorder.

Now, when professionals are diagnosing autism spectrum disorder, they use what’s called the DSM-5. It can be quite complex, but basically, they diagnose autism spectrum disorder on the basis of difficulties in two areas – ‘social-communication’ and ‘restricted, repetitive and/or sensory behaviours or interests’.

To be diagnosed with ASD, a child must have difficulties in both areas and have had characteristics from early childhood, even if these aren’t picked up until later in childhood.

The first signs can be a lack of eye contact during breastfeeding or not following people with their eyes. There can be fewer gestures than usual, like pointing or waving, or none at all, and little or no speaking. Sometimes there can be a special interest in one type of thing, like dinosaurs or cars, maybe even repeatedly lining them up, and not playing with other toys, or repetitive behaviors. Transitions and changes in routine can be hard for them. And management of their emotions can also be difficult at times.

These signs can be different for boys and girls, and health professionals are getting better at understanding and picking up autism in girls.

Please look at some of the information above about the important pick-up signs. If you have concerns, it’s important to act on them. Early diagnosis is one of the best predicators of positive outcomes. The earlier you identify and get help with a diagnosis can make a big difference.

If you have concerns, act on them and speak to a health professional. Diagnosis and early intervention before three years of age is the biggest indication for positive outcomes. Other people may make comments – like every child develops differently, or boys develop later. But this can be unhelpful as it avoids asking the questions around autism and ultimately delays valuable help

The only way to really know if your child meets the criteria for a diagnosis is to get an assessment. See a doctor to rule out genetics with blood tests, have a psychologist do a thorough assessment and rule out similar issues that have the same impact, such as anxiety, ADHS, development delay, or intellectual learning difficulties.

If you are worried, a good place to start is to book an appointment with a speech pathologist, as speech and communication skills development can be an early sign.

Find a clinic near you

We have clinics in every state and territory providing assessments, early childhood intervention therapies, and support to help you thrive.

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The Early Start Australia promise

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Holistic care and treatment plans

Our multi-disciplinary team works together with you to understand your child’s needs. From there, we’ll develop a plan with evidence-based strategies. Work with us to achieve your goals and enjoy a better quality of life.

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Australia-wide reach

With clinics in every state and territory, and an experienced team of therapists. Find help when you need it, where you need it.

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Registered NDIS provider

We are a registered NDIS provider and are here to help you on your NDIS journey. We provide quality and safe services, follow NDIS requirements, and support your needs and goals.

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Early intervention at all stages

Early intervention is not just for young children. We offer therapies that cater to all ages, needs and abilities, and we know the sooner you start your therapy journey, the better your outcomes. With us, you can learn new skills and enjoy more freedom and control in your life.

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