Autism Education Programs

For children with autism education programs are generally used as the first line of defense to treat Autism Spectrum Disorders. Autism education can also complement other interventions. The National Academy of Sciences (2001) recommends educational programs that are intensive (more than 25 hours a week), engage the child and are directed toward a strategic goal.

Although children with autism may have the same early symptoms and characteristics, each child is unique in their strengths and abilities. All children have different learning styles. Some children are visual learners, and some are auditory learners, while other children are tactile learners.

Parents know their own children best – their strengths and challenges. Teachers and therapists will come and go. However, parents are a constant force in the lives of their children.

"I can assure you there is no more powerful advocate for children than a parent armed with information and options."
Secretary Rod Paige

Parents and caregivers play a critical role in the lives of children with autism. At one time or another, we are our child's teacher, advocate and service coordinator. Learning about various autism education programs and other interventions is essential for parents and caregivers. We need to know what options are available for our loved ones so that we can make informed decisions about their education and treatment plans. Autistic children learn best in their natural environment and when there is carry-over between home and school.

Practical Resources for Home and School

Some state regulations require schools to provide family training which give parents of students with autism the opportunity to learn more about autism education and treatment options. There are also some good training manuals, books and articles available. See our list of recommendations.

The Internet is another valuable resource for parents, with informational sites, autism discussion boards and chat rooms. Workshops and conferences on autism education and treatment options are also helpful. Parents who are unable to attend can often times purchase these events on audiotapes or videos. The DAN! Webcast offers parents an opportunity to view presentations by experts and researchers at recent Defeat Autism Now! conferences free of charge.

There are many different types of autism education programs designed to teach our loved ones. It is crucially important for parents and caregivers to learn about various programs available within your local school district and elsewhere for an appropriate educational program for your child.

Autism Education Program Resources

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Below are autism education resources to learn more about current interventions used to treat children with autism.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

The Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies offers information on Appplied Behavior Analysis or ABA including an overview, glossary of some ABA terms, and free online instructional programs about Behavior Analysis.

Boston Higashi School

The Boston Higashi School is the international program serving children and young adults with autism. Its philosophy is based upon the principles of Daily Life Therapy developed by the late Dr. Kiyo Kitahara of Tokyo, Japan. This method provides children an education through group sessions in academics and technology, art, music and physical education. The goal of this educational approach is for individuals to achieve social independence and dignity, and to benefit from and contribute to society.

Facilitated Communication

Facilitated Communication is an alternative means of expression for people who cannot speak, or whose speech is highly limited (e.g. echoed, limited to one or a few word phrases), and who cannot point reliably. The method has been used as a means to communicate for individuals with severe disabilities, including persons with autism and other developmental disabilities.

The Greenspan Method

Dr. Stanley Greenspan is known for his approach in autism education by a method called "Floor Time" to treat children with autism and other developmental disorders. This method centers on an intensive 20 to 30 minute period when you get down to use "floor time" as a way to interact with your child one-on-one, while taking into account their underlying sensory issues. The "Floor Time" model organizes the child's developmental abilities and is based on the theory that effective interaction can tie together cognitive and emotional growth.

The Miller Method

The Miller Method addresses children's body organization, social interaction, communication and representation issues in both clinical and classroom settings based on the Cognitive-developmental (c-d) systems theory that typical development depends on the ability of the children to form systems as organized "chunks" of behavior which become stretched out as the children develop.

PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System)

PECS or Picture Exchange Communication System is an augmentative communication system designed to help individuals quickly gain a functional way to communicate (Bondy and Frost, 1994). PECS is suitable for children and adults who are non-verbal or who may speak with limited language skills, articulation or motor planning difficulties, or lack of spontaneous speech.

The Son-Rise Program

The Son-Rise Program at the Autism Treatment Center of America is a unique modality created by parents for parents and professionals and teaches them to design and start their own home-based/child-centered programs. The Son-Rise Program believes that parents are their child's best resource so its educational program is designed not only to work with children, but parents as well. Parents are taught concrete educational, and other tools and techniques to help them be the most effective teachers and trainers that their children can have, enabling their children to dramatically improve in all areas of learning, development, communication and skill acquisition.


TEACCH or Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication Handicapped Children is a public health program available in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The TEACCH philosophy is a basic structured teaching strategy to teach persons with autism to use and capitalise on their skills. For example, teaching individuals of all ages using structure, visual schedules and worksystems in a natural setting to develop more meaningful skills to try and help them function more comfortably.

For more on autism education (ABA and Autism) click here.

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