Association for Science in Autism Treatment

Scientific research

The Association for Science in Autism Treatment is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving care and treatment of people with autistic disorders, as well as improving education about the spectrum. The organization urges people who develop autism treatment models to provide clinical research supporting their claims.

The Association for Science in Autism Treatment

The Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT) is not affiliated with any specific intervention, therapy or product for autistic disorders. The organization provides objective information about treatments, including which strategies require more research and which are evidence-based approaches.

Evidence-Based Autism Treatments

Evidence-based treatments for autistic disorders are ones that have clinical proof that the interventions work. Many approaches fail to provide evidence that they are effective, and many families find themselves wasting a lot of time and money on interventions that do not deliver. ASAT is an excellent resource for parents and professionals who are looking for effective treatments.

ASAT has a comprehensive list of therapies, educational approaches, and psychological interventions for autistic disorders, including everything from animal therapy to vitamins. The organization lists them and provides a summary of the scientific research associated with each.

Which approaches come out on top? Evidence-based approaches are:

  • Applied behavioral analysis (ABA)
  • Augmentative and assisted communication (AAC)
  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
  • Recreational sports and exercise
  • Socialization related classes (preschool, Mommy and Me classes, Gymboree)
  • Video modeling

Approaches Under Investigation

Which approaches need more research?

  • Animal therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Attachment therapy (bonding)
  • Auditory integration therapy
  • Developmental therapies
  • DIR Floor Time
  • Holding therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Oral motor therapy
  • Patterning
  • Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)
  • Sensory integration
  • Social skills groups
  • Son Rise
  • Vision therapy

While an impressive number of therapies require more research to earn scientific backing, some may be used to complement scientifically supported treatments for autism. For example, a therapist may engage the child in sensory integration activities in between ABA activities. As with nearly every other aspect of autistic disorders, the individual's needs, interests and responses to the interventions are important considerations.

Treatments Without Scientific Backing

Which are not recommended?

  • Facilitated communication
  • Psychoanalytic and humanistic play therapy

Facilitated communication failed to prove that the approach can improve communication in clinical studies. Since emotional trauma or conflict is not a cause of autism, psychoanalytic and humanistic play therapy is ineffective in treating the disorder.

Biomedical Treatments

Biomedical treatments for autistic disorders run the gamut from anti-fungal medication to oxygen chambers. Additional research is necessary to determine if biomedical interventions are appropriate for treating autistic disorders.

Medication may be effective in treating some individuals on the spectrum who have behavior problems and severe aggression. It is necessary to discuss this option with a doctor because medications must be prescribed, and careful monitoring is imperative.

Details about other biomedical interventions are available on the ASAT Research Synopses page.

Protecting Families

Pervasive developmental disorders have no known cause, but there is strong evidence that they are genetic conditions. There is also no known cure, and treatments are as varied as the spectrum is itself. Some interventions and treatments offer miraculous promises with little or no scientific backing, and ASAT requests that each offers clinical data to back their claims.

Families dealing with autism are often eager to find interventions that work, and the desire to improve their children's lives can make them quite vulnerable. The Association for Science in Autism Treatment seeks to protect families by making service providers and programs accountable. See the organization's Media Watch page for the latest developments in efforts to ensure that accurate information about autistic disorders are in the media.

Choosing Treatments for Autistic Disorders

If you are trying to decide which interventions to adopt in your child's treatment plan, ASAT is a valuable resource that can help make choosing less daunting. The organization is genuinely interested in providing accurate information about different approaches, as well as evidence of their effectiveness.

Parents and professionals may benefit from signing up for the ASAT Newsletter for updates. Treatments currently lacking scientific backing may earn it through clinical studies, and it helps to stay up-to-date on the latest developments.

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