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Autism and Primary Care: Interventions

There is no cure for autism but there are some interventions which can help with some of the problems and challenges faced by people on the autism spectrum.


Some interventions are designed to address the core symptoms of autism (persistent difficulties with social communication and social interaction; restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities).

Some interventions are designed to address other issues common in people on the autism spectrum (such as anxiety and self injurious behaviour).

Other interventions are designed to address other issues common to lots of people (such asthma or diabetes).

Types of Intervention

There are numerous different types of intervention designed to help people on the autism spectrum. Those interventions include behavioural techniques, medications, augmentative and alternative communication, assistive and adaptive technology, diets and supplements etc.

In most cases, the treatment for medical problems encountered by people on the autism spectrum is exactly the same as it is for anyone with those problems. So, for example, if a patient on the autism spectrum has asthma they should be treated in the same way as everybody else. 

In some cases the treatment may need to be adapted to meet the specific needs of the individual. So, for example, NICE recommends that CBT for the treatment of anxiety may need to be adapted for autistic people using 'a more concrete and structured approach with a greater use of written and visual information (which may include worksheets, thought bubbles, images and 'tool boxes').

However, there is no 'one-size fits all' solution. Each person on the autism spectrum is a unique individual, with unique needs and abilities. The most effective interventions are tailored to meet the unique characteristics of each individual.

Quality of Interventions

Unfortunately there is still a lack of high quality research evidence to support most non-medical interventions, although that does not necessarily mean they do not work. Regrettably some interventions are also scientifically unfeasible, potentially harmful or both.

For these reasons we recommend that you should only use reliable sources of information (such as NICE, RCGP and Research Autism) all of which are accredited to the NHS Information Standard) when researching or recommending these interventions.

Please see: NICE Guidance section

More Information

Please see the following pages on the Research Autism website:  Alphabetic list of interventions | Types of Intervention | Our evaluations of interventionsKey Principles interventions should follow | Key Questions to ask about interventions | Scientifically unfeasible and potentially harmful interventions

Related Pages


                          Updated 21 January 2016



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