Developmental Therapies for Autism


Autism, to date, does not have any "cure." But, early interventions have been introduced in the previous years to help kids with autism learn how to be sociable and independent. As they grow older, these life skills will help them navigate the external world. Through this, developmental therapies for Autism have been born.

Developmental therapies for Autism

Also called social-pragmatic interventions, developmental therapies aim to encourage social communication. Social skills being the biggest challenge for each person diagnosed with Autism. 

Despite the lack of outside surveys on these therapies, studies show their effectiveness. According to a study by Denver (2010), children who underwent the Denver Model Therapy for 2 years have seen higher results on IQ and lesser autistic tendencies compared to those who only received community therapy. The study was conducted on 24 kids from ages 18 to 24 months

Let's look at the various developmental therapies for autism.


  • Developmental social-pragmatic (DSP) model

What is it about? 

The DSP model employs the use of everyday interactions in the intervention process. Caregivers and parents, work hand in hand, with professionals to execute this approach. 

DSP is a combination of the Applied Behavior Approach (ABA) and incident teaching at home. 


Main Objectives 

The main goal is to encourage kids with autism to start communication without any prompt. And also, to improve social interactions. 

Example: Parents or family members put their favorite toy in a place that is out of reach. The activity's aim is to let the child ask for help in getting their toy, whether it by words or action. 


When is it recommended?

The DSP model is recommended to people with autism. They must have basic communication skills, preferably, pre-schoolers. Parents and caregivers are directly involved in the process. 

The goal is to boost children's ability to interact, respond, and convert nonverbal to verbal communication. It doesn't directly have a huge impact on the improvement of their language proficiency.


  • Floortime

The Floortime approach is commonly referred to as Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-Based Model (DIR).

What is it about? 

The parents or caregivers get down on the floor to play and interact with their children to match their level. With the Floortime approach, parents are to follow their child's lead, engaging them in a back-and-forth play. 


Main Objectives 

Floortime helps children in reaching their six (6) developmental milestones, namely: 

  • Self-regulation and interest in the world
  • Intimacy, or engagement in human relations
  • Two-way communication
  • Complex communication
  • Emotional ideas
  • Emotional thinking


When it is recommended 

Interactive play is for children with autism. Each session lasts around 2-5 hours at home, executed by the parents with the facilitation of a consultant. 

The DIR method combines physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and/or speech therapy customized to fit each child's needs.


  • Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)

What is it about? 

RDI is a parent-based treatment, developed by psychologist Dr. Steven Gutstein, to enhance dynamic intelligence.' 

Dynamic intelligence is the ability to: 

  • Understand various perspectives
  • Adapt to changes, and 
  • Consolidate information from numerous sources.


Main Objectives 

The goal is to develop the child's long-term quality of life through elevating their agility, self-awareness, and social skills. 

Six of RDI's objectives are:

  • Emotional referencing or ability to "read" emotions. 
  • Social coordination includes behaving in a social situation. 
  • The declarative language uses words or gestures to express their curiosity, interact, and respond to others.
  • Flexible thinking is how they can easily adapt to the changes around them.
  • Relational information processing is seeing the "big picture" to arrive at solutions.
  • Foresight and hindsight are using past experiences to predict future possibilities.


When it is recommended 

The family-based treatment aims to address the symptoms of autism. Thus, this is important to build the relationship between the child and members of the family. The step-by-step approach motivates and teaches skills. 

After the initial assessment, the consultant provides a customized plan and goals based on the kid's capacity. As the child progresses, the plans also change to fit his needs.

The plan includes a variety of activities, such as "interactive play." Other children can join in a "dyad." This is to further promote the child's ability to create and develop an emotional bond with others.


Education starts at home. For children with autism, the direct involvement of parents or family members is a feat by itself. With the help of professional, home-based treatments can develop the kids to their full potential.

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