Autism therapy

Autism therapy

Autism is a common developmental condition characterised by impairments in language and social interaction and awareness. Individuals on the spectrum present with developmental delay. Children on the spectrum of autism range from having no language at all, being completely isolated and unable to interact with others, to being very adept at speech and only lacking in the social aspects of communication. Choosing the right autism therapy is imperative as time is of the essence. Early intervention sets the stage for best outcomes.

Leading Autism therapy

The one autism therapy that is now considered a scientifically validated pedagogical approach that has been time-tested and repeatedly proven to be effective throughout the lifetime of individuals with autism and other learning disabilities is Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). The core principal of ABA is that if a behaviour is followed by a desirable consequence, that behaviour will occur more often in the future. If a behaviour is not followed by a desirable consequence or is followed by an undesirable consequence, that behaviour will occur less often in the future. ABA as an autism therapy has become globally accepted as the one intervention that has proven to achieve robust results. Another principle of ABA is that ABA works on a 3-term contingency which involves the antecedent, the behaviour and the consequence that occur following the behaviour. Therapists trained in ABA change the antecedent and/or consequences of a particular behaviour in order to change the behaviour itself. These strategies have been an integral part of autism therapy for many years.

ABA as an autism therapy is endorsed by the US Surgeon General and the American Academy of Paediatrics. Its is covered in 52 States in the USA under medical insurance. Unfortunately ABA has not yet received medical aid cover in South Africa and we have been working on trying to get ABA approved my medical aids. ABA as an autism therapy is simply a tool to help children reduce challenging behaviours that keep them isolated from society and strengthen the skills they need to more successfully interact with those around them. A child who can’t speak and who can’t function deserves the opportunity to learn those skills necessary to function as a human being. ABA uses positive reinforcement to teach children those skills that they are missing. Today ABA as an autism therapy has gained recognition globally. Families seeking ABA services have access to certified competent professionals who have to strictly adhere to a code of ethics with oversight. There are many trained and experienced Board Certified Behaviour Analysts ie BCBA’s who oversee ABA programs and help direct ABA programs. BCBA’s have achieved a certification after having attained a masters degree.

One of the strategy’s relied on in ABA is called a functional analysis and is a good strategy to rely on as an autism therapy. A functional analysis is a functional behavioural assessment. This assessment is conducted to determine the function of a behaviour. The BCBA who conducts a functional assessment will define the child’s challenging behaviour and try to determine whether the behaviour occurs for escape, access to a tangible, is automatic or whether the behaviour occurred for attention. A functional analysis has been a useful assessment tool which then allows the BCBA to design a behaviour intervention plan (BIP) to address the child’s behaviour issues. The BIP will detail which skills the team should focus on to teach replacement behaviour. A functional analysis of behaviour has been one of the principles of behaviour analysis that clinicians have relied on when choosing an autism therapy to help a child on the spectrum acquire skills and reduce challenging behaviours.

Support for ABA in Autism therapy

There are numerous peer reviewed published papers which indicate that the more hours a child receives ABA services the more likely they are to learn delayed skills. ABA as an autism therapy requires at least 5 to 7 hours a day of services. In 1987 Dr Ivar Lovaas published a peer reviewed paper on ABA and recovery from autism. Lovaas took children between the ages of 3 and 4, he placed them into 7 hours a day of ABA and achieved a 47 % recovery from autism. Since then there have been many other published papers that have demonstrated the efficiency of ABA as an autism therapy and intervention to help children with autism function and gain independence.

The Skills Curriculum has been regarded as the world’s most comprehensive assessment and curriculum for autism treatment. This digital developmental platform which creates and implements tailor-made treatment plans for children with autism has made a significant contribution to autism therapy. Many clinicians now rely on the curriculum when customizing an ABA program for a child on the spectrum. Skills provides research-based data-driven reports on how we can improve learning and development. Every lesson and treatment plan can be tracked online. The skills curriculum focuses on eight distinct areas of human functioning including social, motor, language, adaptive, play, executive functioning, cognition and academic. Skills coupled with ABA is a winning-formula and has become a very valuable combination when deciding on an autism therapy for children on the spectrum.

ABA is regarded as first-line treatment in the USA and Italy. As an autism therapy it is imperative that children on the spectrum can gain access to this very necessary intervention. Many barriers to access have prevented parents from accessing ABA as an autism therapy. Much work needs to be done to ensure the global dissemination of ABA services as an autism therapy that is accessible to all parents around the world.

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