So you or your child have just been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
I know your head is probably buzzing as you walk out of that appointment. And I know you were probably given like 30 pages of recommendations to pursue, many of them focused on different types of therapy for autism: occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, play therapy, music therapy... the list goes on. You may not have dealt with any of these kinds of interventions before, and it can be hard to know where to start.
So, over the next couple of months, I’m going to be dedicating some posts to specific kinds of therapy that are often suggested to autistics and their families. I'll be talking about what each different type of therapy for autism looks like, what its goals are, and how you can tell if it’s a good fit for you or your autistic person. Please feel free to share these posts as resources to anybody you think might need them.
Today, to get us started, I want to go over the basics of what therapy is for, what it is not for, and how to tell if it might be a good fit for you.
A little disclaimer - I’m not a medical professional or a therapist. I’m an autistic mom of an autistic child and an ADHD child. These are my own opinions drawn on my own research and experience.
There are a lot of high energy opinions about different kinds of therapies in the autistic community. I’m not trying to represent anyone else here; I’m just saying my piece.
What Is the Goal of Therapy for Autistic People?
In my opinion, the goal of any type of therapy for autism should be to help an autistic person function the best they can and be the happiest they can in current-day society, which unfortunately is not always as friendly to autistic people as we’d like.
A therapist should be a support for you, your child, and your family in teaching and creating ways to make life work for you all. Therapy should never be about making your child less autistic in some way.
Is There A Therapy to Cure Autism?
No. Autism cannot be cured because autism is not a disease or a disorder.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition and a form of genetic diversity. Our autistic brains are different than neurotypical brains, and that’s normal and okay.
What's Therapy For If It Won't "Cure" Autism?
You can’t cure a totally normal, healthy brain, ok? Your kid/ autistic person is awesome, and what therapy should do is help them learn some skills and bridge some gaps so that they have a better chance of showing neurotypical society how awesome they are.
(In a perfect world, neurotypicals would be responsible for doing some of the work in learning autistic styles, just like autistics have to learn neurotypical styles, but until we get there, therapy’s where it’s at.)
But This Therapist Told Me She Could Cure Autism, So What's Going On?
That therapist is lying to you or is very misinformed, and you should run.
Therapy to “cure” autism won’t change your child’s brain, but it might make her very unhappy and unwell, so if a therapist is trying to tell you that they can cure your child’s autism, they are lying and not basing their therapy on current medical and scientific research.
How Do I Decide Which Types of Therapy for Autism I Should Try?
I will be writing about the big ones and putting links here as I finish those posts, but basically, you're looking for therapies that seem like they'll support you, give you structures and goals, without trying to change your actual brain.
Please always do your own research before you try something out, especially if it’s for your kiddo, who needs your trusted support to make judgments about what's best for them.
Some therapies are great, some are the worst.
When you're researching, make sure you're considering the opinions of autistic adults who actually went through the therapy, too. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is a great resource to know.
And please be willing to try a different therapist if you’re sold on the theory but not on the practice - sometimes it takes a while to find the best fit, unfortunately.