One of the most well tested and effective treatments for autism is Applied Behavioral Analysis. According to the 2008 Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General states, "Thirty years of research demonstrated the efficacy of applied behavioral methods in reducing inappropriate behavior and in increasing communication, learning, and appropriate social behaviors. The goal of behavioral management is to reinforce desirable behaviors and reduce undesirable ones." Unfortunately, these programs are very expensive and parents often have to advocate hard to find funding and trained professionals.
ABA can take place in a child’s room, a section of a classroom, or any area that is quiet and free of distraction. In the best situations an ABA program is run by a licensed behavioral therapist. This therapist will observe the child and create a baseline of the child's social skills, language and behaviors. They will then create an individually based program designed for that child. The therapists will constantly track the child’s progress during therapy and work towards consistently introducing and teaching new skills. These skills can include speech, self help, social skills, school readiness skills and more.
Controlled trials have shown ABA therapy significantly increases social skills and language when a child has at least 25-40 hours of therapy a week for at least 2 years (Lord & McGee, 2001). The earlier this intervention is started the more effective it will be. However, studies have also shown ABA to be effective with teens and adults(Weiss & Harris, 2001).
ABA has been so important for my child's development. This is not a quick fix but in our house our motto is: slow and steady wins the race! It was a lot to manage and at times very stressful because we had therapists in and out of our house all day, five days a week for a couple of years. However, it was worth it. We saw our son's language develop, as well as his social and self help skills. Our therapists taught us how to redirect destructive behaviors, facilitate interaction during play dates and helped us get our son out of the house and into the community. It was well worth the time, personal sacrifice and financial investment.