When it comes to helping their children with autism spectrum disorders, parents don't do just one thing. Therapies to schedule, service providers to examine, child development evaluations to perform and revisit—they all come in the plural form.
Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that there are different kinds of autism; experts tend to say that no two people with the diagnosis are exactly alike. The disability centers on a person's inability to participate in the basics of human communication and interaction, so there's a lot to do to help a young child who receives an autism diagnosis: developing their use of words, cultivating their ability to relate to other people, helping them to understand their surroundings and get through the many transitions in a day—from home to school, and from learning time to playtime, from dinner time to bedtime.
Parents (most often moms) find themselves trading tips like business executives in a boardroom discussing project management strategies and service vendors. Who's the best provider for the job? What's the best use of our finite time and resources? What approach has the best return on investment?
There are no simple answers and so lots of families take a multi-pronged approach (read What to Do When Your Child Gets An Autism Diagnosis for more info). It turns out that the average number of simultaneous treatments that children with autism receive is five, according to preliminary statistics gathered from more than 4,000 parent surveys by the Interactive Autism Network, a project at the Kennedy Krieger Institute to "accelerate the pace of autism research."
The survey defined "treatments" broadly and included the following:
- Speech and language therapy
- Behavioral therapy, communications tools like special "social stories" that use pictures and symbols to explain an upcoming event
- The use of vitamins and drugs. (The Food and Drug Administration has approved the prescription drug Risperidone to treat children with autism and adolescents for aggressive behavior.)