Applied Behavior Analysis
What is Autism?
Autism is a neurological disorder delaying overall development and functioning. Children with autism generally experience prominent delays in the development of language, non-verbal communication, cognitive abilities, adaptive functioning, and social interaction. Children with autism often exhibit self stimulatory behavior such as spinning, rocking, hand flapping, or other peculiar motor behaviors. Autistic children can also be characterized by repetitive behavior and obsession with routine. Wide ranges of severity exist among those affected, for example, communication development can be displayed through complex language acquisition or the child may demonstrate no form of communication at all.
A Parent's Perspective
If you receive a diagnosis of Autism for your child, it can be devastating. Finding the appropriate help for your child can prove to be a painstaking endeavor. It is common for parents to receive conflicting, and/or erroneous information about the treatment of Autism from various professionals. The purpose of this pamphlet is to explain a mode of treatment known as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and its potential effectiveness.
What is ABA?
ABA is a comprehensive behavior program incorporating all aspects of a child's life. It is characterized by a systematic teaching program. Every learning objective is broken down into the simplest form and taught to the child in a one-to-one (child/teacher) format. As skills are developed, complexity is added and generalization into all parts of the child's life is expected.
The primary teaching method is known as discrete trial teaching. Discrete trial teaching occurs in a highly structured environment using reinforcement that is dependent upon the child's responses to requests by the teacher. It is repetitious in nature as the child is “drilled” until mastery of a learning objective is gained. Each item mastered builds upon the next. Initially the child could spend up to 40 hours a week in this type of therapy for a minimum of two years. The one-to-one time is decreased as the child becomes involved in school or group settings and more incidental teaching can be applied.
WHAT PARENTS WANT TO KNOW
Documented Research in ABA
ABA research has been ongoing for more than forty years. ABA is most commonly referenced by the work of Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas and his colleagues. Their comprehensive study in 1973 documented 9 out of the 19 children in the experiment were able to attend typical first grade classrooms without special accommodations and were indistinguishable among their peers. The May Institute in Massachusets conducted a study on 14 children with autism. Their reseach documented significant improvements in mental age scores and social age scores in 12 children. Additionally, 9 children increased their language capabilities by up to a 18 month developmental gain. The Murdoch Early...