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Alternatives to ABA Therapy

Updated: Sep 5, 2022

ABA Therapy is a technique used for understanding and changing behavior using positive reinforcement and a behavior and consequence approach. ABA is often the intervention which is recommended when a child is diagnosed with Autism; however, there are many other therapies available.


"Theraplay is a dyadic child and family therapy that has been recognized by the Association of Play Therapy as one of seven seminal psychotherapies for children. Developed over 50 years ago, and practiced around the world, Theraplay was developed for any professional working to support healthy child/caregiver attachment. Strong attachment between the child and the important adults in their life has long been believed to be the basis of lifelong good mental health as well as the mainstay of resilience in the face of adversity. Modern brain research and the field of neuroscience have shown that attachment is the way in which children come to understand, trust and thrive in their world. In treatment, the Theraplay Practitioner guides the parent and child through playful, fun games, developmentally challenging activities, and tender, nurturing activities. The very act of engaging each other in this way helps the parent regulate the child's behavior and communicate love, joy, and safety to the child. It helps the child feel secure, cared for, connected and worthy" (

Researchers found that Theraplay allowed the counselor to address and work through common defense mechanisms seen in the child with ASD, such as pushing others away and avoiding socialization. Theraplay works toward getting the child to engage, relate, and communicate with others. Through Theraplay activities, children with ASD can learn that the world is a safe, secure, and predictable place, thereby enhancing feelings of general safety and security (A Practical Approach to Implementing Theraplay for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder).


"Floortime (also known as DIRFloortime®) is an intervention used to promote an individual's development through a respectful, playful, joyful, and engaging process. It uses the power of relationships and human connection to encourage the development of the capacities for self-regulation, engagement, communication, shared social problem solving, and creative, organized, and reflective thinking and reasoning.

Case studies have also been effective in supporting the use of DIRFloortime with children with autism. Dionne and Martini (2011) demonstrated statistically significant improvement in communication between parent and child. Wieder and Greenspan (1997, 2005) did comprehensive case studies that spanned from 8-15 years. These studies supported the long-lasting results DIRFloortime had on individual child skills, as well as the emotional connections the families were able to develop over time using this approach" (DIRFloortime).

Neurodiversity Affirming Psycho-Therapy + Occupational Therapy

Neurodiversity affirming - It’s the idea that individuals have differences in their abilities and how they interact with the world around them – differences which are not considered to be deficits that need to be “fixed”.

Rather, those who view individuals in this light consider neurodiversity to be natural. The world should be accepting of people’s differences in how they think, learn, process, and perceive information. Through a combination of psycho-therapy and occupational therapy, a child and family can learn ways to adapt their environments to best meet the needs of their child, learn about their own differences and advocate or implement strategies in different environments which may not be conducive to their occupation. These therapists can also help a child regulate their emotions through finding coping skills and sensory integration.

Written by Charlotte Cox, Child Therapist at Orenda Counseling LLC and Danielle Coulter, Pediatric OT at Bloom True Therapy.

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