Welcome to Day One of our seven- part series The Best Therapies for Children With Autism. If you have a recently diagnosed child with Autism and are wondering what would be the best course of action and how to help them, this would be the series for you.
Day One Applied Behavior Analysis (Behavioral Therapy)
If your child has been diagnosed with Autism, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Autism Spectrum Disorder, then they will most likely benefit from a type of therapy called Applied Behavioral Analysis. Some people call this Behavioral Therapy. The name is something of a misnomer, because Applied Behavior Therapy (ABA) has far more to do with good teaching methods than it does with correcting behavior. ABA therapy can teach children with autism to do practical things like tie their shoes or functional things such as eat by themselves or eat a wider range of foods. ABA can certainly assist children with Autism in learning to communicate and it has taught some children speech.
The downsides to this type of therapy are that it is often not funded, leaving parents to pay for this out of their own pockets. This type of therapy is expensive and sometimes the progress is slow and painstaking.
The upside to this therapy is that it can be conducted in the child's comfortable home environment, and success is virtually assured if parents persevere patiently with the program. Another significant benefit is that this is one of the only types of therapy that has solid research behind it at this time. Dr. Lovaas took care to not only make claims about his success with children with Autism, but also demonstrated his results scientifically. This is important because it gives parents some idea of what they can expect for their children when they do this treatment.
Treatment is normally conducted in the child's home in a one to one setting using a series of prompts and reinforcers (rewards.) Almost all of the children respond positively to some degree or another from this type of therapy. A percentage of children with Autism recovered from this therapy and Dr. Lovaas documented this.
In sum, Applied Behavioral Analysis is a treatment that shows promise and hope for children with Autism.