The terms, autism spectrum disorder, and autism, according to Autism Speaks, are used to describe a variety of complex brain development disorders. When someone has autism, they may experience a variety of social and communication difficulties. In addition, they may also engage in specific types of repetitive behavior.
The 2013 edition of the Diagnostic and and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DMS-5 ) has categorized the various disorders associated with autism as autism spectrum disorders. It is therefore important to refer to the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5 revisions for additional details.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is one of the more successful methods used to assist children with autism and related conditions. From birth to the age of 18, ABA has shown promise with assisting these children within the following fundamental areas:
- Language development
- Social development
- Academic development
- Daily living skills
According to the Surgeon General’s report on treatment approaches for autism spectrum disorders, ABA has shown long-lasting and observable results. Furthermore, ABA accounts for 45% of the currently available therapies that have demonstrated significant results.
In general, a child with autism spectrum disorders will meet with their ABA therapist for up to 40 hours a week. These therapeutic programs consist of intensive one-on-one teaching sessions that are held throughout the year. On average, a child may be in an ABA program for two years or longer.
In addition to working with children at autism treatment centers, an ABA therapist may also be able to provide therapy in the familiar surroundings of home. This may be indicated for some, but not all, children.
Due to the type of intensive intervention provided by ABA programs, some children have experienced positive results with just 20 hours of therapy a week. Given these findings, however, it is important to note that most documented successes have involved children that have worked with an ABA therapist for a minimum of two years. Furthermore, these specific children also received 30-to-40 hours a week of ABA therapy.
Autism Speaks reports that the principles and techniques utilized by ABA therapy can assist with skill development in the following areas:
- Understanding others’ perspectives
One of the key principles of ABA, according to Autism Speaks, is positive reinforcement. Given decades of research into learning theories and how learning occurs, this field has discovered and developed a number of effective techniques.
These techniques include how to increase useful, or positive behaviors, as well as how to reduce undesired behaviors. Undesired behaviors include those that cause harm to self or others as well as interfere with the individual learning process.
Furthermore, in many cases, children with autism spectrum disorders may eventually be able to attend regular school programs and advance to college. Autism Speaks also notes that recent studies have shown ABA therapy has been beneficial for adults. Some of these programs have been able to assist teens and adults with both employment and independent-living goals.
It is essential to remember that each person with an autism spectrum disorder is unique. As a result, his or her individual abilities and potential, including superior intellect in many cases, is equally unique.