Programs for the Treatment of Autism
Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder first termed by a man by the name of Kanner in 1943. He described a group of children as having severe language, behavior, and social interaction difficulties. These descriptors are what have come to be the core elements of autism today. Autism is characterized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (4th ed.) by a continuum of abnormal development in social interaction and communication combined with a restricted repertoire of activities and interests. Children with autism are typically diagnosed by the age of two, with the prognosis generally being poor. The American Psychiatric Association's 1994 estimated prevalence is about 1 per 1,000 individuals with males being diagnosed 3 times more than females. However, females are more likely than males to function in the mental retardation range (Gresham et al., 1999). Currently there is no known "cure" for autism. Therefore, in the following composition I am going to discuss some of the methods designed to manage the behavior of individuals with autism.
The first program I am going to discuss is a project that was conducted by Lovaas beginning in 1970 called the UCLA Young Autism Project (YAP). The goal of this project was to increase behavioral functioning in children with autism by the use of simple commands (e.g. "Sit down," "Look at me"). During the treatment, aggressive and self-stimulatory behaviors were either ignored or reacted to with a contingent physical and/or verbal punishment such as a slap on the thigh and/or a loud "No!" while alternative behaviors were reinforced (Gresham et al, 1999).
The research design used in this project was a quasi-experimental design. The participants were not randomly assigned, but were coordinated into groups of 19 (Experimental, Control 1, and Control 2). Both children in the experimental group and control 1 received intensive one-to-one treatment beginning at average ages of 34.6 and 40.9 months respectively and continuing for two or more years. Children in the experimental group received at least 40 hours of treatment per week, whereas children in control 1 received 10 hours or less per week. Children in control 2 were not treated by the YAP personnel, but were given an unspecified form of treatment (Gresham et al., 1999).
At the end of the project, 47% of the children in the experimental group were reported as having "recovered." This indicating that their IQ scores were in the normal range (M=7, Range=94-120), they had passed the first grade in a regular education classroom, and they showed continuing increases in social, emotional, and educational functioning. Lovaas also reported that the school staff described these children as indistinguishable from their normal peers. No children from control 1 and only one child from control 2 reached this point of "recovery" (Gresham et al., 1999).
Although the YAP appears to have been successful,...