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Autism Spectrum Disorders



1. Behavioural Approach

  • established by learning theories regarding behaviours being shaped by antecedents and reinforcement

  • tackles a variety of specific behavioural problems, aiming at reducing symptom frequency and severity and enhancing the building of adaptive skills

Examples of Programmes:

A) Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) 

  • by giving explicit instructions and rewards, with repetitive training, breaks down complex skills or behaviours into smaller steps

B) Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

  • offers an alternative means of communication for children whose verbal language proficiency is low

  • increases intention and motivation of communication through using alternative means of communication with symbols (usually pictures)

2. Combined Approach

  • using principles from both the behavioural and social/developmental approaches

Examples of Programmes:

A) TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication handicapped Children) 

  • utilizes structured environment and visual cues to strengthen the comprehension of environmental expectations and others’ behaviours of children

B) SCERTS (Social-Communication, Emotional Regulation and Transactional Support)

  • highlights active engagement, environmental support in increasing motivation in learning and communication of children, as well as emotional regulation and problem-solving skills

3. Relationship-based Approach

  • generally play-based, taught in child’s natural environment with parents playing the major roles during the intervention

Examples of Programmes:

A) Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-Based Model (DIR)

B) Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)

C) Floortime

4. Socio-cognitive Approach

Examples of Programmes:

A) Social Stories 

  • provides short descriptions of particular situations, events or activities, including specific information about what to expect and the reasons behind

  • help children to understand the perspective of others, learn appropriate social behaviours and develop social skills 


B) Social Thinking 

  • helps children increase social competencies to comprehend and interpret social information, including others' thoughts, beliefs, emotions, perspectives, motives and intentions, so as to give appropriate social responses or action


C) PEERS Program 

  • through group settings, teaches children social skills with intensive parents’ involvement, and strengthens parents' instructional skills

5. Medication

  • proved to cure core social or communication impairments of ASD

  • shown to reduce some specific behaviours such as aggression, self-injuries, anxiety, stereotypes, compulsions, mood disturbances, hyperactivity, inattention, and sleep troubles could increase the capability of children, which in turn benefit them from other educational and behavioural modification interventions


Child Assessment Service, Department of Health. (2017). ASD_Eng. Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government.


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