Autism Therapy: goals and effects

There are many therapies and strategies designed to be used with Autistic children. Many of them, including ones like Positive Behaviour Support which is said to be a good method for support children in schools, are mostly just ways to encourage (or force) compliance for the convenience of educators. This is damaging for Autistic students, and many other students as well, and I believe these strategies need to challenged. 

As with all my infographics, the information below is not intended to be seen as an exhaustive list, but as a starting point for conversation. 

I am happy for people to share the image, but please credit me and link back to this article, or to my Facebook page when you do. If you wish to print the image or otherwise reproduce it for your own use, please click here for access to the downloadable PDFs.

There is an image description following the image.

Image title: Autism Therapy: goals and effects 

Copyright statement: 

©Michelle Sutton * *Please credit when sharing *Do not reproduce without written permission

The image contains 3 coloured boxes set out as three columns. The box on the left is yellow and is titled “Common goals of Autism Therapies“. The box in the middle is blue and is titles “Effect of compliance on the Autistic person“. The box on the right is green and is titled “Acceptance based alternative strategy“.

Information is set out across the coloured columns as follows:


eye contact


physical pain, inability to concentrate on anything else


do not insist on eye contact

if confirmation of listening is essential use a strategy like asking the person in they heard you


verbal communication


frustration, anxiety and feelings of inadequacy if language is very difficult for the person, belief that others value the method of communication more than the message being communicated


do not insist on verbal communication

accept use of gestures, sign language, AAC devices, typing or drawing pictures and all behaviour as valid forms of communication


reduce or eliminate stimming


frustration, anxiety, inability to concentrate, reduced ability to cope with sensory input and build up of stress leading to meltdown or shutdown


do not discourage stimming

accept stimming as a useful way of self regulation and expressing oneself


being still, quiet and “ready to learn”


frustration, anxiety, inability to concentrate, reduced ability to cope with sensory input and build up of stress leading to meltdown or shutdown


do not require stillness or quietness or assume that it is necessary for effective learning

acknowledge that sometimes the best learning happens in noisy, messy environments and make adjustments accordingly


appearing “normal” or “like other children”

i.e. indistinguishable from peers


frustration, anxiety, PTSD, feelings of inadequacy, self loathing, reduced ability to cope with sensory input, feeling invalidated and invaluable, bottling up emotions so appear normal and having no ‘acceptable’ outlet for them


do not attempt to teach Autistic people to behave in a less Autistic way

accpet Autistic people as valuable when they behave like Autistic people


eliminate “problem behaviours”


bottling up emotions so appear normal and having no ‘acceptable’ outlet for them, reduced ability to cope with sensory input and other stresses, and build up of stress leading to meltdown or shut down, feeling there no safe place or person to go to when experiencing difficulties


accept all behaviour as communication, and look to find the true “cause’ or message being conveyed, then provide appropriate support and accommodations

At the bottom of the image is an orange box that contains the words

All children should be allowed to play, learning and progressing at their own pace.

Being Autistic does not mean a child should be subject to hours of therapy a week.

Play and exploring their own interests is the best way for all children to learn.


6 thoughts on “Autism Therapy: goals and effects

  1. Graham Keeton says:

    this is all useful information and I’m glad to see it
    what bugs me though is there is a real lack of information for adults
    everything seems to be biased towards children that of course is a great thing yeah I get that but as a 49 year old male with aspergers who struggles day to day I just find that its very frustrating
    what I am trying to say has adults who have got the diagnosis been forgotten because of what society perceives that adults should be like or is it just because its all about children these days
    I had my diagnosis over 12 years ago and yes that was a late one and yes it was an uplifting thing
    but as I have said I struggle day to day and all I ever wish is to constanly improve the quality of life
    If this sounds a bit too blunt I am truly sorry for that I really am but I am frustrated and just would like to see autistic services improved so they are all inclusive
    that I don’t see at moment



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