Innovative Counseling, Inc.®

Autism Treatment F.A.Q.s

What are Pervasive Development Disorders?
Pervasive Development Disorders are a group of disorders that are characterized by severe impairment of development in social skills, communication skills or the presence of stereotyped behavior, interests, and activities. These disorders include Autism, Rett's Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Asperger's Disorder, and PDD-NOS. Innovative Counseling provides therapy for 3 PDD diagnosis.
What is Pervasive Development Disorder -Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)?
PDD-NOS is diagnosed when the child has a developmental delay in social skills or verbal/nonverbal communication, but does not meet the specific criteria for Autism or another PDD.
What is Asperger's Syndrome?
In this disorder the child develops restricted repetitive patterns of behavior, and significant delays in social skills but not in language development, cognitive development, or self help skills.
What Is Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)?

Dr. Ivar Lovaas and his research put ABA on the map in the autism world. In 1987, Dr. Lovaas, applied ABA to autism at the Psychology Department at UCLA. His belief was that social and behavioral skills could be taught to children with autism using the ABA method.

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is a method of treatment based on behaviorist theories which, state that behaviors can be taught through a system of rewards and consequences. The Lovaas Institute explains the concept in this way:

  • Applied - principles applied to socially significant behavior
  • Behavioral - based on scientific principles of behavior
  • Analysis - progress is measured and interventions modified
How does ABA work?
The Lovaas Method of ABA starts with "discrete trials" therapy. A discrete trial consists of a therapist asking a child for a particular behavior (for example, "Johnny, please pick up the spoon"). If the child complies, he is given a "reinforcer" or reward in the form of a tiny food treat, a high five, or any other reward that means something to the child. If the child does not comply, he does not receive the reward, and the trial is repeated.
ABA uses trials and reinforcement to teach language, behavior, and academics. Concepts may be broken down into several small steps and chained together. After mastering a specific training trial, the child then builds upon the learned skill to take on a more complex one.
Some strategies are: use a variety of reinforcing activities/objects, stop while the learning is still fun, reinforce at varied rates so the child does expect reinforcers.
What is Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)?
Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) is a parent-based, clinical treatment for individuals with autism spectrum and other relationship-based disorders. RDI is based upon a model of Experience Sharing developed by Steven E. Gutstein Ph.D. The primary goal of RDI is to systematically teach the motivation for and skills of Experience Sharing Interaction. Deficits in Experience Sharing have been found to lie at the core of autism spectrum disorders. RDI methods are based upon extensive research in typical development as well as scientific studies of individuals in the autism spectrum.
How does RDI work?

RDI is based on the premise that relationships are initially more satisfying to neuro-typical children than to children with autism. The program works to provide children with "samples" of potential payoffs in enjoyment and positive excitement they can obtain from social encounters.
The complete RDI "curriculum" is composed of six levels, each with four stages. Every level represents a developmental shift in the central focus of relationships. Drs. Gutstein and Sheely have written a book that outline the six relationship levels (Novice, Apprentice, Challenger, Voyager, Explorer, Partner). This book is complete with directions for several activities to teach skills across the curriculum.

Adapted from "Relationship Development Intervention with Young Children" by Steven E. Gutstein and Rachelle K. Sheely, and
What is Applied Verbal Behavior (AVB)?
This method is based on B.F. Skinner's book Verbal Behavior. It uses the theories and techniques of ABA and applies them to verbal language. A VB program will use the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills by Drs. Mark Sundberg and James Partington, as a curriculum.
How does AVB work?

VB includes two separate parts of therapy, table time and natural environment teaching (NET). During table time the child is taught specific targets using errorless learning and the teach, trial, transfer method. Depending on the child's needs there is a set ratio of new material to mastered material and a set rate of reinforcement.
During NET the therapy team has contrived situations and activities to practice targets in the natural world (playtime, meals, outings etc.). More time is spent teaching in the natural environment than at the table. However, data is collected throughout the entire therapy session.
Some strategies are:

  • start building a reinforcer repertoire early in the program
  • ignore unwanted behaviors
  • teach the child to ask for items by name instead of "more" or "please"
Adapted from
Questions regarding specific programs can be found here.
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