Our approach is Behavior Analytic Treatment which emphasizes the use of principles derived from research on operant conditioning.
- Therapists often simplify children’s environments in order to maximize successes and minimize failures.
- Another common specification is the use of discrete trial format, characterized by:
a) One-on-one interaction with therapist,
b) Short and clear instructions from the therapist,
c) Carefully planned procedures for prompting, children learn to follow the instructions.
d) Immediate reinforcement for each correct response made by the children.
Behavior Analytic Treatment also emphasizes the use of functional analysis. In such analysis, therapists monitor the immediate antecedents and consequences of behaviors, so that they can determine how they might alter these antecedents and consequences to improve children’s skills.
Autism and ABA
Autism is a neurological disorder that causes severe impairment in communication, the ability to learn and social relatedness. Although normal in appearance, children with autism may seem withdrawn and unable to speak and communicate normally. They often have difficulty developing creative or imaginative play, may engage in odd behaviors or rituals, and are often resistant to change. Many individuals with autism learn best with one-to one instruction of skills broken into small increments.
For more than 40 years, educators and researchers have documented the success of techniques from the field of behavior analysis in effectively remediating many deficits in communication, social skills, academics, and living skills experienced by individuals with autism. Tasks are modeled for learners, and small increments of behavior are shaped and positively reinforced. Even the ability to converse or complete complex math problems can be learned in this manner. Part of the job for a teacher who employs Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is to determine how to break down skills and motivate a child with autism to learn.
The U.S. Surgeon General has recognized ABA as one scientifically validated technique for achieving life changing gains for individuals with autism:
Thirty years of research demonstrated the efficacy of applied behavior methods in reducing inappropriate behavior and increasing communication, learning, and appropriate social behavior. Lovaas carried out a well designed study of psychosocial intervention and colleagues (Lovas 1987: McEachin et al., 1993) Nineteen children with autism were treated intensively with behavior therapy for 2 years and compared with two control groups. Follow-up of the experimental group in first grade, in late childhood, and adolescence found that nearly half the experimental group but almost none of the children in the matched group were able to participate in regular schooling. Up to this point, a number of other research groups have provided at least a partial replication of the Lovaas model (see Rogers. 1998).
U.S. Department of Health and human Services, Mental health: A report of the Surgeon General 163-164 (1999).