Autism Treatment

Toddler playing with colorful toyAny toddler participating in our program who shows a possible a delay is referred for immediate treatment. If delays indicate early warning signs of autism, toddlers may be eligible for the autism-specific treatment provided by the ACE.

Our treatment is funded in part through a collaboration with San Diego Regional Center and is directed by world famous treatment experts, Dr. Laura Schreibman and Dr. Aubyn Stahmer. 

ACE staff members are highly experienced in providing comprehensive intervention to infants and toddlers at-risk for autism. The treatment team works directly with children and their families to offer individualized and intensive services at home.

We use only research-based and well-established approaches to intervention. In addition, intervention is play based and fun for children. As children progress through intervention, their progress is carefully monitored to allow our team to identify the strategies that are most effective for each individual and to adapt treatment accordingly.

Treatment FocusMother and son playing a game

The ACE treatment focuses on:

  • Building play skills
  • Enhancing social interaction
  • Teaching spontaneous speech
  • Improving self-help skills 
  • Stimulating cognitive development

Intervention Methods

The interventions we use are a combination of three different treatment approaches, all based on a behavioral model:

  • Discrete trial teaching (DTT)
  • Pivotal Response Training (PRT)
  • Functional Routines (FR)

These approaches vary in terms of how the intervention is delivered. For example, DTT appears more structured and treatment may be delivered with the child sitting at a table. Practice with the same skill is often repeated several times in a row to facilitate quick mastery.

In contrast, PRT appears more play-based and is often delivered as the child plays with toys on the floor. During PRT the therapist uses toys and the child’s natural motivation to improve a range of social and academic skills. 

The treatment team will decide how much treatment of each type is best suited to fit the needs of each child.

We also incorporate strategies from developmental/ interactive models which are used along with the behavioral strategies and help with social engagement.

Amount of Treatment Offered

Treatment includes two parts: Parent education and in-home intervention. The parent education portion involves 12 weeks of specific training in play-based techniques to help parents work with their child provide support with strategies.

The amount of in-home treatment provided for each child varies based on decisions made by San Diego Regional Center and the treatment team. The number of in-home treatment hours usually ranges from 6-10 hours per week.

Treatment typically continues until the child turns 3 years old.

Research Focus

Ultimately, different research areas of the ACE will combine information about how children responded to treatment with biomedical information obtained from each child (e.g., based on MRI or genetic findings).  Our goal is to offer treatment providers information that will help them predict which treatment approaches will be most effective for individual children.