While no two children with autism spectrum disorder are alike, an evidence based educational program called Joint Attention Symbolic Play Engagement and Regulation or JASPER is helping preschools integrate a child’s behavior therapy program into his daily activity at school. After integrating the program into classrooms for autism spectrum disorder students, research shows the students have better results than when they work from a standard curriculum alone.
The JASPER program requires intensive training and coaching for the teachers and aids initially but shows that once trained, they are effective, similar to one-on-one intervention with an autism specialist. In the classroom, it requires about 15 minutes daily.
The program has been used by specialists for one-on-one therapy for 15 years. Studies using JASPER led by autism specialists show children have significant improvements in speech and social skills. This play-based intervention allows teachers to model activities and communication, but gives space for the children to initiate interaction instead of answering a set of questions from the facilitator. With the classroom program, children benefit from daily interaction, which does not happen when only the therapist uses it.
Children with autism spectrum disorders often require more than one type of therapy. When a child has biological or medical issues in addition to being on the spectrum, he might receive treatment for seizures or gastrointestinal problems.
Effective therapy often requires parents and teachers take a role in providing the therapy program that meets the child’s special needs. At the preschool level, research indicates the child benefits from about 25 hours of therapy weekly, administered by the therapist, teacher, or parent.
While most therapy models for autism are based on behavior therapy, some children do not respond as well as others to this model. For these children, art or animal therapy may be more appropriate. Learn more about how these alternative interventions help children here.