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  • Writer's pictureThe Autistic Realm Australia Inc.

Therapy Red Flags: what to look for

How do you know whether a therapy or practitioner is not respectful of Autistic people?

Many of the practices parents are referred to are non-affirming approaches, approaches that may cause harm, or approaches designed to enforce typical social and behavioural norms. Any practice that does these things is not therapeutic, but likely to cause life long harm.

Therapy is only one small part of a child’s life. They need time to play which is the real work of childhood.

Red Flags

Here are some elements to consider about any practice you have been referred to.

First, consider the number of hours a child is committed to, especially if they do more than one at any time. A practice intended as therapy isn’t an extra curricula activity a child does for fun. It is work! It needs to be balanced with down time, which should be prioritized above everything else.

More warning signs of to watch for.


  • Observation not allowed

  • Indefinite or ongoing attendance

  • No clear discussion of goals

  • Emphasis on compliance

  • Use of terms such as inappropriate, non functional, or dysfunctional

  • Not presuming competence

  • Lack of rapport with child

  • Ignoring the concept of consent

  • Excessive hours

Child Specific

  • Not making basic accommodations

  • Focus on changing behavior instead of teaching functional skills

  • Ignoring the child's emotional state

  • Expecting the child to perform without regard to the child’s emotional state

  • Insistence on verbal speech

  • No stimming allowed - "quiet hands"

  • Eye contact demanded

  • Whole body listening taught

Practice methods

  • The reliance on reward/token systems to urge compliance

  • Not breaking tasks down to small steps

  • The skill's taught do not transfer to daily life

  • Ignoring the child's boundaries

  • Planned ignoring

  • Noticeable increase in meltdowns/shutdowns aftwr sessions


If uncertain ask; would this be acceptable with a neurotypical child?

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