There is a wide range of interventions and approaches available for children and adults on the autism spectrum, but many have not been evaluated on a long-term basis. You may find it difficult to decide whether you should use one, or which to use.

How to choose

Before choosing an approach, find out as much as you can about it. Research Autism provides:

  • pointers on how to go about making the decision to use an approach
  • key principles that any intervention or approach should follow
  • impartial evaluations of autism interventions - what interventions claim to do and whether or not there is any evidence to back up the claims
  • questions to ask, eg about the aims, costs and risks of the approach
  • a list of red flags - signs that an intervention or programme may not be what it seems.

Red flags

If an intervention or approach looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Research Autism lists these signs that an intervention, approach or programme may not be what it seems.

  • Celebrity endorsement (why should celebrities know more than you?).
  • Glitzy presentations (for example videos and PowerPoint presentations) which include bogus scientific data.
  • Commercialisation of the intervention or programme (expensive fees or opportunities for you to make money by becoming a reseller of the intervention).
  • 'Research' findings that have not been published in reputable peer-reviewed journals.
  • Use of outdated or incomplete research studies and reviews which don't show the full picture.
  • Hard-sell techniques (including emotional blackmail or special offers).
  • Use of words like 'miracle', 'faith', 'trust', 'cure', 'recovery'.
  • Claims of high success rates and rapid results.
  • Claims that the intervention is effective for many conditions, disorders and diseases.
  • Claims that the intervention is easy to use, requiring little training or expertise.
  • Claims that other proven interventions are unnecessary, inferior or harmful.
  • Promotional literature or websites which have incomplete contact details - such as a full postal address, landline phone number.
  • Warnings and reprimands from appropriate organisations, such as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence or the Advertising Standards Authority.

Keep an eye on our news section for information about approaches that concern us.

More information

Last reviewed 27 June 2016