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Importance of a Multidisciplinary Approach towards Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

What is a Multidisciplinary Approach?

Defining the term

The term is self-explanatory- it is a mode of treatment that employs data relevant to multiple disciplines in order to achieve an in-depth understanding of the problem, and aid the individual accordingly. It may make use of a number of fields, like psychology, medicine, etc.

What is it used for?

The multidisciplinary approach has an abundance of uses, as it goes far beyond the treatment of children of determination. It has also been used to help victims of abuse and in reshaping academic systems and syllabi, for example.

Multidisciplinary Teams

Multidisciplinary teams, or MDTs, are groups of individuals from various professional disciplines, who use the expertise unique to them to formulate a healthcare plan for those with complex care needs. These professionals bring together their skills and know-how for a joint effort in planning, managing, and coordinating a treatment route and care services. Their focus is typically to provide a foundation for independence and inclusion, collecting as a team to help an individual with their specific treatment goals. They work proactively to provide healthcare services at home or in the community, so as to avoid unnecessary hospital services.

The Significance of Multidisciplinary Approach in Autism Treatment

MDTs have access to a range of social care, healthcare, and further community services; in addition to a wide range of knowledge to observe and comprehend from a variety of facets of a singular problem. Keeping this in mind, many consider the multidisciplinary approach to the treatment of children of determination to be the aptest, as it is noted to have a positive impact on their health and education.


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) encompasses a variety of signs, from communication deficits to poor motor skills to healthcare problems. Considering that the condition engages several kinds of issues, it would only be considered appropriate to have a treatment plan that addresses all of these types of problems. Consequently, the need for care across all disciplines is felt by autistic children, thus requiring a multidisciplinary approach to autism treatment.

This may include the fields of psychology, medicine, education, nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, dietetics, psychiatry, etc.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) acknowledges the significance of this mode of treatment in the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in its establishment of the A.L.A.R.M. guidelines. It notes that, according to the guidelines, one must not wait for a diagnosis and quickly refer to “an autism specialist, or team of specialists” for a definitive ruling. Moreover, the AAP sees Myers and Johnson documenting the importance of a multidisciplinary approach in managing the requirements of children affected by autism spectrum disorder.

With the rising awareness of the condition, simultaneous with the increase in registered cases, the complex requirements of autistic individuals is being recognized. In view of this, the multidisciplinary mode of treatment has been gaining acknowledgment as perhaps the most thorough approach, covering all care needs of patients of ASD. In fact, the United Nations Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities enshrines the right of individuals to a multidisciplinary assessment.

Methods of Multidisciplinary Assessment

The inter-professional collaboration required by the multidisciplinary method has brought forth a lot of data on the success of this mode of treatment. By conducting studies together with the autistic children and their families, researchers have found a multitude of ways to employ the multidisciplinary approach for the betterment of people of determination.

It avoids the use of a singular treatment plan for all individuals, acknowledging their unique requirements and catering to them accordingly. Some of the methods employed include delving into the disciplines of:

  • Psychology: Psychologists measure a child’s level of cognitive functioning- or “IQ”- and carry out assessments for depression, anxiety, and other comorbid conditions. Like many clinicians on the multidisciplinary team (MDT), psychologists also run diagnostic assessments to determine an ASD diagnosis. A significant component of this assessment is neuropsychological testing, which concentrates on the various areas of a child’s cognitive functioning.
  • Psychiatry: A psychiatric assessment considers the developmental perspective of a child’s growth. It takes into account the cognitive, social, physical, emotional, behavioral, neurological, and language deficits of a child with ASD. According to H.L. Egger, a number of elements are involved in a comprehensive mental health assessment. Major elements include play assessment with the child and a separate session alone with the parents.
  • Communication: Speech and language are considered elements that need to be assessed by both, subjective measures and standard testing. Research in 2009 by Tager-Flusberg et al. deduced that language assessment for autistic children should be derived from ‘multiple sources’, including natural language samples, parent reporting, and direct standardized assessments.


A multidisciplinary approach, or inter-professional collaboration, is concluded by certain studies and articles as the best mode of treatment for certain problems, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder or chronic illness. Taking into consideration the unmet health care, educational needs, and/or family support services that many autistic children and their families have to endure (for example, delayed diagnoses, and lack of family-centered care), an integrative review by Julie Strunk et. al determined the growing need of a multidisciplinary approach in autism treatment. A need, growing only for the lack of it.


How effective is it?

With new developments being made in the field of mental health, the question of an ultimate treatment seems to be poked and probed quite a bit. The multidisciplinary approach of treatment, in consequence, seems to be a well-received method, covering a number of facets of a singular problem. In essence, it is an offensive attack on all fronts of a mental health issue. That may be why many special education institutions and inclusion centers opt to apply this method, including Small Steps Big Dreams in Dubai, UAE. While most therapies are scandalized, the multidimensional approach this mode of treatment- in a way, a panopticon for the problem at hand- is one that makes sense to most. It assures an all-encompassing examination and treatment, delving into several different fields and taking almost every form of treatment into account.

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