A Treatment Methodology for Autism
Applied Behaviour Analysis – A Treatment Methodology for Autism
Autism is characterised by difficulties with social settings and communication. Typical challenges faced include a difficulty with pointing to items, a difficulty in giving objects to others and an absence of pretend play skills. These deficits can lead to a lack of integration for the autistic child. A treatment called ‘Applied Behaviour Analysis’ (ABA), however’ is helping to address the issue and to integrate autistic children into the community fold.
ABA has become widely accepted as an effective and successful treatment for autistic spectrum disorders. The therapy analyses existing behaviour in conjunction with research findings to effect meaningful change. ABA has been shown to reduce inappropriate behaviour and increase communication, learning and appropriate social behaviour. It was basic research undertaken by Ivar Lovaas and his colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles, which called for an intensive, one-on-one child-teacher interaction for 40 hours a week. This laid a foundation for other educators in the search for further effective early interventions. The result of all this work to date has been the development of successful ABA programmes and today there are highly trained providers that specialise in these services within the UAE. To be effective, an ABA programme should comprise the following components:
Recent studies show that there is a correlation between the number of hours of intervention and the outcome of the therapy — programmes that are more hour-intensive produce better and longer lasting results. An ABA provider will make recommendations for the hours of therapy needed based on research and the individual child’s needs.
Because many autistic children lack the social and communication skills necessary to be successful in a group, the ABA provider will often begin teaching skills in a one-on-one setting — typically in the child’s home. After skills are learned in this familiar environment, therapy for the child will take place in other settings, such as the school and community.
Learning in a one-on-one environment
Addressing all developmental domains
An effective ABA programme will address all aspects of the child’s disability; including deficits in communication, attention, social, play, gross motor, fine motor, self-help, cognitive and academic skills, as well as behavioural challenges. These will all be targeted in the child’s individualised curriculum and goals for each area will be developed based on the child’s individual strengths and deficits in each area.
Emphasis on generalising skills
Generalisation means that the child can perform a particular skill in any environment, with any person, objects or instructions. A quality ABA programme has a systematic, continuous plan for generalising skills learned in the therapy room.
Supervisors should meet regularly with the parents and aides to discuss the child’s progress, identify new areas of strength and weakness and adjust the curriculum accordingly. Supervisors should have experience and education in ABA and should work with either a PhD level psychologist or Board Certified ABA Therapist in developing the child’s programme.
ABA is a data-driven treatment. The programme should regularly record, review and analyse data related to the child’s progress. The results of this analysis should be used to develop individualised and behavioural strategies for the child.Independence as a goal
In a quality ABA curriculum, the goal is to increase the skill levels of the child to the extent that the programme is no longer required in order to maintain success in a typical setting. While this is not a goal that can be realised by all autistic children, the ABA provider should be building skills to achieve independence to the maximum extent possible.
To supplement ABA therapy, other effective treatment methods and services that support the programme also need to incorporate the following; speech therapy, occupational therapy, sensory integration, social skills and group training, school shadowing, inclusion support and parent training, including workshops.