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Autism and ABA FAQs

How do I know if my child has autism or PDD?
Through an educational evaluation from the Educational Service District (ESD) or a medical diagnosis by a knowledgeable physician or clinical psychologist who specializes in diagnosing autism found at CDRC (see DSM-IV Criteria for Autistic Disorder).

What is the difference between a Educational Evaluation of Autism and a Medical Diagnosis?
A medical diagnosis uses the DSM-IV. The definition of autism falls under the umbrella of Pervasive Developmental Delays (PDD) which includes Autism, Pervasive Developmental Delays Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), Rhett’s Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. A diagnosis can be gained through the CDRC, Children’s Hospital, a medical doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist.

An educational evaluation defines autism as including autism, PDD NOS, and Asperger’s. The “handicapping condition” is the global term “Autism.” Under this umbrella of “autism” falls the spectrum of disabilities from mild to severe. The level of severity is not explicitly determined during an educational evaluation/determination of eligibility. Under the education system, the child is evaluated by Early Intervention and/or ESD. A team, usually with a speech pathologist, autism specialist, and/or occupational therapist, looks for “significant characteristics” of autism in four areas: communication, social, sensory and repetitive/restrictive/stereotypic interests and activities. The team determines “significance” together with the guidance of the specialists. Currently, a medical diagnosis does not guarantee services for autism in public education.

What are some educational programs used for children with autism?
Some competing educational programs include: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), developmental methodology such as Structured Teaching and Stanley Greenspan’s Floortime, and an eclectic approach which includes strategies from a behavioral and developmental approach.

What are some other therapies?
Some treatments that are used in conjunction with educational models may include: sensory integration, Auditory Integration Therapy (AIT), occupational therapy, speech therapy, hippo therapy (horseback riding), craniosacral therapy, aqua therapy, art therapy, music therapy, facilitated communication, vision therapy, and dance therapy.

POAC of Oregon does not advocate or take a position regarding these options. Since each child is an individual with his/her own special needs, you are advised to research the available treatment options, discuss these with your medical care provider, and make an informed decision based on your child’s needs.

What are some medical treatments and where do I find a doctor to help me?
Biomedical treatments may include: vitamin therapy such as B6, Magnesium, vitamin A, epsom salt baths, melatonin, probiotics such as Culturelle and Primal Defense, and Essential Fatty Acids such as Cod Liver Oil (CLO).

Dietary interventions include the Gluten Free-Casein Free diet (GFCF), Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), Feingold diet, and food allergy elimination. New and improved medical treatments are constantly added to the list. Some have scientific research, some do not.

Drug treatments may include: heavy metal detoxification or chelation, anti-yeast therapy, IVIG, secretin, Prozac, Zoloft, Tenex, Buspirone, Depakote, Resperdal, secretin, Cloradine, anti-virals (Valtrex, Famvir), anti-fungals (Nizoral, Diflucan), TTFD, Methylcobalamin, B12 shots, steroids, and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Doctors with experience in treating children with autism are often called Defeat Autism Now! doctors (DAN!) and can be found at: - DAN! doctors are growing in numbers.

DAN! doctors and the DAN! protocol date back to 1995 when the Autism Research Institution (ARI) convened group of physicians and scientists from the U.S. and Europe for the express purpose of sharing information and ideas toward defeating autism as quickly as possible. The participants continue to work together toward the goal of finding effective treatments.

There are special email lists for autism medical issues such as Phoenixkids, ORAutismSupport, and GFCFkids. See the section on Email Listserves on how to subscribe.

Why should I request a behavioral program for my child with autism?
ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) is the only treatment for autism that scientific research has proven to be effective for children with autism. ABA has numerous research articles showing effectiveness in teaching children with autism and related disorders.

What is a behavioral program? Is it the same as a home program?
A behavioral program employs ABA techniques such as discrete trial teaching, verbal behavior, precision teaching, incidental teaching and pivotal response training to change the behavior of your child with autism and to teach him or her the communication and social skills necessary to function in this world. For a program to be successful it must be intense: at least 30 – 40 hours a week of one-on-one teaching. Good programming and parental involvement are critical to the success of a program. An ABA program may occur in a school based setting but it should include a home program element. Because behavioral programs are often started when a child is very young,—two to four years of age—they are often done in the home because it is the “natural” environment. For more detailed information read the Glossary.

How do I pay for a behavioral program?
For the most part, parents often pay for the program themselves. A very few are successful in getting Early Intervention or the School District to pay. Many rely on Developmental Disability Services, Disability Social Security, Insurance, Intensive In-Home Services, Respite Care, family generosity, fundraising, or private funds to directly or indirectly support some or all parts of a home/behavioral program.

My child has PDD, PDD/NOS, or has been diagnosed with “autistic-like” traits. Should we request a behavioral program?
Please consult with a professional. Several are listed at However, scientific research suggests that ABA is appropriate and helpful for children with these diagnoses.

Why the need for advocacy?
Behavioral programs can be quite expensive and sometimes advocacy is required to convince your public service provider that a behavioral program is required to provide your child with a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).