Among the many methods available for treatment and education of people with autism, applied behavior analysis (ABA) has become widely accepted as one of the most effective treatments. 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." The goal of an intensive behavioral program is to help a child prepare for typical learning placements at their local school.
ABA and Autism
In a recent replication study of the Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis by an independent author, children in ABA therapy scored significantly higher in IQ and adaptive behavior scores than the comparison group. Furthermore, 29% (6 of 21) children were fully included in regular education without assistance and another 52% (11 of 21) were included with support. This compares to only 5% of (1 of 21) children in the control group who were placed in regular education. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 27 (2), 145-155.
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. Many states now mandate that ABA therapy is covered by health insurance. This has dramatically increased access to this therapy.
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).