Autism Treatment F.A.Q.s
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
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.
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 www.factfamily.org
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"