Therapy hours: how many are enough for autism spectrum disorder?

Therapy hours: how many are enough for autism spectrum disorder?

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How many hours of autism spectrum disorder therapy does your child need?

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) need anywhere between 15 and 25 hours of therapy each week. This includes time with parents and teachers, as well as time with therapists.

But there isn't a definitive answer to the question of how many hours children need. Every child with ASD is different, and the number of hours that work well for one child might not work so well for another.

More than therapy hours

Early, intensive and family-based therapies work best for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These intensive therapies typically involve a certain amount of face-to-face contact with a therapist. But this contact is only part of a therapy's 'intensity'.

Intensity also involves time spent practising and using new skills in different situations and with different people - for example, at home, at child care, at school and so on.

Some approaches that use fewer hours of face-to-face contact with a therapist can be very effective. These include parent-led therapies like More Than Words® or the Early Start Denver Model. In these therapies, carers get involved in learning skills so that children can continue the therapies on a daily basis at home.

For example, a session with a therapist might focus on teaching a child to recognise colours. But the child will benefit just as much (or even more) if a parent helps the child to practise and use this skill as often as possible during everyday life.

In other words, the time that parents spend with their children is an opportunity to teach new skills and a chance to reinforce formal learning.

Which therapies?

Recommendations about hours usually refer to behavioural and developmental interventions.

Medical therapies, which usually involve taking drugs, don't require any time except the time you need to take the medication. Alternative therapies, like those that focus on children's diet, just need the time to source and prepare food.

Read more about types of interventions for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Questions to ask about a therapy's time requirement

These questions can help you understand how much time you'll need to commit to a therapy:

  • How many hours of face-to-face therapy or contact are recommended?
  • Do you and your child need to practise outside the face-to-face sessions?

If you and your child do need to practise outside the face-to-face sessions, you could also ask about:

  • where you need to practice - at home, school, child care?
  • who needs to be involved - parents, carers, teachers and so on?
  • when or how often - do you need to make time or should the therapy become part of daily life?
  • how - what do you need to practise?