Post by:

Michelle Artreche

Created on:

August 11, 2021

Alternatives to ABA Therapy

ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) is officially defined as a type of therapy that focuses on teaching certain behaviors through a series of rewards and consequences. Although ABA therapy is currently banned in many countries, it remains one of the most popular therapies for autistic children in the United States. ABA therapy is controversial to some parents of autistic children and autistic self-advocates. ABA can be too focused on eliminating behaviors instead of building skills and tries to make children with autism fit into neurotypical standards.


Behavioral intervention is an effective option for autistic children and youth, usually used in conjunction with occupational and speech therapy services. The difficult task is to discover which type of therapy will best match your child’s individual needs, but there are definitely many alternatives aside from ABA therapy.  


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

A psychological therapy that leads to a notable improvement in quality of life, with methods proving to be effective for a range of problems including depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and mental illness. In CBT treatments, the patient and psychologist work together to develop a treatment plan that best benefits the individual needs. 

CBT is not a one size fits all solution, and that is why autistic folks benefit from this type of therapy, it is individualized to each experience! 


Floortime Therapy

Floortime therapy is centered on helping children and youth with autism build relationships and emotional connections by getting down on the floor with them and playing. Floortime encourages therapists, providers, and caregivers to interact with the children at their level, focusing on the child’s interests and fascinations. Floortime eventually evolved into what is referred to as the Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-Based model of intervention (DIR), which made it possible to train practitioners and run proper research studies to determine effectiveness.


Music Therapy 

Music therapy is a wonderful tool to help autistic folks improve skills in several areas such as communication, emotional regulation, motor skills, social skills and interaction, and sensory issues. Since music is processed in both hemispheres of the brain, it stimulates cognitive functions and can be used to support speech/language skills.


Play Therapy 

Play therapy encourages children and youth to move beyond an introverted style of play into a shared interaction between peers. This method of therapy can be facilitated in the home with a caregiver, in a therapy session, or in the classroom by an educator. Play is cherished by many, which is why this method of therapy is incorporated regularly, it allows autistic folks to explore their feelings in a familiar environment with teachers, siblings, peers, and therapists. 


Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)

RDI is a new type of intervention training to empower parents, guardians, and caregivers of autistic children and youth. It is not intended to be a type of therapy rather an intervention that promotes positive developmental changes to occur over time by guiding an individual to fully comprehend and successfully navigate challenges of their own. 


Social Skills Group

Social skills groups are intended to strengthen the social and communication skills of children, teens, and young adults with autism, who need assistance with emotional regulation or communication disorders. We have a helpful blog created covering the importance of social-emotional learning and its benefits. Groups typically consist of two to eight neurodivergent individuals and an adult facilitator, whether that be an educator or therapist. It is beneficial to all parties to have a guided session instructing how to appropriately interact with typically developing peers! 

Social Cipher is an advocate in the neurodiverse community and stands to support, uplift, and empower all neurodivergent individuals. We understand that ABA therapy is still widely used with autistic folks. We believe that seeking out alternatives along with the combined support (depending on your child’s needs) whether it is speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, academic and family support will lead to a great substructure to build off of!

Helpful resources:

https://autisticadvocacy.org/