A Treatment for Autism
The Star Academy grounds itself in Applied Behavioral Analysis as a treatment for Autism in children and adolescents. Applied Behavioral Analysis, otherwise known as ABA was developed by Ivar Lovaas and is widely accepted as a ‘intensive behavioral approach’ (Parritz & Troy, 2014) specifically designed to reduce problem behavior and build up a child’s skill repertoire. As Autism is characteristically diagnosed between the ages of 2 and 4 intervention occurs as early as possible. Research indicates that for ABA to be effective as a treatment for Autism the child must receive a minimum of 40 hours of therapy a week for more than 2 years (Parritz & Troy, 2014).
ABA shows strength in its research as a treatment for Autism, studies date as far back as 1987. Ivar Lovaas conducted the first study to evaluate long term ABA therapy titled, ‘Behavioral Treatment, Normal Education and Intellectual Function in Young Autistic Children’. Lovaas (1987) found that 47% of children who receive intensive ABA achieved a normal IQ, between 90 and 110, and achieve successful grade 1 placement in mainstream education.
Mc Eachin, Smith and Lovaas (1993) conducted a follow up study for ABA as a treatment for Autism. This time research focused on reevaluating participants, now between the ages of 11 and 12 years, studies found that 88% of children who received intensive ABA retained intellectual and adaptive functioning skills acquired in therapy.
ABA as a treatment for Autism focuses on two core principals, if abnormal behavior is followed by desirable consequences it likely that it will occur more frequently, if abnormal behavior is followed by undesirable consequences it is less likely to occur more frequently. At the Star Academy the first focus is to decrease negative behavior and increase language and social interaction. How is this done? Through the collection of data focusing on the rate and frequency that a negative behavior occurs at and then a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) which clearly states how to manage problematic behavior and to then replace this behavior with appropriate behaviors that consider the enjoyable aspects of prosocial interactions (Parritz & Troy, 2014).
The Star Academy’s curriculum overview is laid out in terms of a child’s emerging age, complexity of skill, vocal ability, prerequisite skills and current level of function according to diagnosis. This curriculum consists of 8 domains specifically designed to equip a child with not only academic skills but life skills as well. Affiliated with CARD (Center for Autism and Related Disorders) ABA curriculum as a treatment for Autism consists of Social, Academic, Motor, Play, Language, Adaptive, Cognitive and Executive Function domains.
This way a specific behavior and lesson is presented to a child by the therapist and then an immediate reinforcer for desirable response and imitation. This way more complex behaviors are built from simple ones (Parritz & Troy, 2014).