Autism Treatment

The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital’s STEPS Autism Treatment Program provides intensive individualized treatment for children with autism in a small group setting, with goals of improving a child’s language, social and cognitive skills.  Our clinicians incorporate evidence-based treatment methods with theme-based learning in motivating environments to help children develop these skills and apply their learning across multiple contexts.  Additionally, we collaborate with and teach caregivers, educators, and other therapists involved in each child’s care to promote consistency in supporting progress throughout your child’s day.

The STEPS program is designed with a focus on:

  • Consideration of each child’s individual strengths
  • Utilization of multiple treatment methods
  • Immersion within a highly visual environment
  • Emphasis on self-initiation with minimization of rote-learning and prompt dependency
  • Routine-based learning with generalization incorporated during emerging concepts (before mastery)
  • Application of low-tech augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) skills to promote language and increase awareness of expectations
  • Comprehensive education of  caregivers on therapeutic approaches
  • Caregiver participation in therapy so they can apply therapeutic approaches throughout everyday activities
  • Education of families on how to determine the quality of available therapies and resources
  • Assistance for families with Individualized Education Plans (IEP)

STEPS autism therapy components

The STEPS autism therapy model involves a number of components, including:

  • 90 minute group treatment sessions 3 times each week
  • Individual speech-language therapy sessions with family immersion once per week
  • All group treatment sessions are led by a certified speech-language pathologist
  • Minimum of 2 staff per 3 children in a group, with one-to-one instruction incorporated into each session
  • Individual occupational therapy sessions with family immersion once per week
  • Parent training including educational materials and worksheets, as well as individual consultation
  • Interaction with peers and children with various developmental disabilities

Blending evidence-based practices for optimal results

The group schedule is similar to a preschool model and includes circle time, snack, art, music, gym, and play time. Our program blends a number of evidence-based approaches to provide an effective, comprehensive therapy experience for children with autism.

For example, intervention approaches such as Pivotal Response Teaching are embedded into each activity to target individual goals and core features of autism spectrum disorders. Naturalistic approaches target similar goals and are embedded into play time. Behavioral principles are used continuously throughout each session. Prompting hierarchies are used to avoid prompt dependency. Data are collected on each child’s goals during each session to monitor progress and update goals as they are met.

Intervention approaches used within the STEPS program include:

  • Discrete Trial Training (DTT)
  • Behavior Modification
    • Antecedent-Based Intervention
    • Extinction
  • Pivotal Response Teaching (PRT)
  • Social Narratives
  • Joint Action Routines (JAR)
  • Enhanced Milieu Teaching (EMT)
  • DIR (Developmental Individual differences & Relationship-based model)/floor time
  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
  • Visual Supports
  • Joint Attention Symbolic Play Engagement Regulation (JASPER)

Who is eligible for the STEPS program?

Children between the ages of 2 ½ and 6 years having difficulty with social interaction are eligible to enroll in the STEPS program. A formal diagnosis of autism is not required.

For families whose insurance doesn’t cover the STEPS program, the M-STEPS program , which provides the same services in an individual, less intense format, is also available.

Make an appointment

For more information, or to enroll your child in the STEPS Autism Program, please email stepsprogram@med.umich.edu or call 734-936-9346.

Physicians can fax referrals to 734-936-9552.

STEPS is supported through funding from Dance Marathon at the University of Michigan.