You want to do everything possible to help your child. Many parents in your position are eager to try new treatments, even if they’ve not been proven to be effective. Your hopes for your child may make you willing to try untested treatments.

Just as each child with autism is different, so is each child’s response to treatments.

It may be helpful to collect information about a therapy that you are interested in trying. Speak with your child’s health care provider, as well as your intervention team members, in order to discuss the potential risks/benefits and establish measurable outcomes and baseline data. Parents of older children with autism can provide you with a history of therapies and biomedical interventions they have tried. This may include some that have been promised to be “cures” for autism over the years. Some of them may have been helpful to a small number of children. Upon rigorous scientific study, it has become clear that none of these “cure” claims are valid. In fact, some unproven methods have been found to be harmful for many, so it is very important to discuss all these ideas with your child’s health care provider before trying them.

Look for scientifically valid evidence, meaning published research studies, behind treatments you are interested in. If you conduct your own research, make sure your sources are established and reliable, such as websites that end in .gov, .edu or .org. If you want to consider a specific intervention or treatment, find out if there is scientific evidence to back it up.

Choosing a treatment for your child may feel overwhelming. Work closely with your child’s health care provider and other professionals involved in their treatment to explore all the options. Your child’s path likely will look different from the path of other autistic children you may know. Focus on finding the services and supports that are right for your child and your family.

How do I get services started for my child?

Before special education services can be provided, your child will need other assessments and evaluations. These may include:

Contact your school district’s special education office for information about these evaluations. You may need to request an evaluation for your child in writing.

The purpose of these evaluations is to understand your child’s challenges to determine appropriate services. A Parent’s Guide to Assessment from the Organization for Autism Research can be helpful in explaining results and what they mean for your child.

Waiting for all of these evaluations may be frustrating. There may be waiting lists, so start the process as soon as possible. These evaluations provide more in-depth information about your child’s symptoms, strengths and needs.

They will be helpful in accessing and planning services for your child. You can do a lot while you wait for results, including:

  • Talk to other parents about what services have been helpful for their children.
  • Investigate the therapies outlined in this kit and on the Autism Speaks website.
  • Learn about how you can support your child by reading books, blogs and other resources online.
  • You may want to check out books or blogs written by autistic people to hear their experiences.

Autism and insurance

While effective therapies for autism exist, these services are not consistently covered by health insurance. The time and energy often needed to ensure that prescribed services and supports are covered can complicate what may already be a stressful time for your family.

Since 2007, Autism Speaks has focused on improving health insurance coverage for medically necessary treatments such as applied behavior analysis (ABA). As of August 2019, all 50 states require meaningful coverage for autism therapies, including ABA, under state-regulated health insurance plans. Unfortunately, not all plans have to comply with state mandates. And many mandates exclude certain plan types or impose caps that may affect your coverage.

Your type of health insurance plan impacts how you advocate for a change in benefits, as well as how you appeal denials of coverage and to whom you file complaints if you are not satisfied with implementation of benefits.

For example, if you are covered by a self-funded or employer-based plan, you would advocate at the level of your employer, while under a fully insured plan, such as Medicaid, it is usually necessary to advocate for change through state law or regulation.

Find out about what your health insurance covers and how best to advocate for autism benefits. If you don’t already know what type of health insurance you have, visit our Health Benefits Guide. Click on the link to your plan type to find online resources that can help you find out what your plan covers for autism treatments and therapies.

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