As a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, I often hear the following comments. “The behavior happened out of the blue!” OR…“The behavior you just can’t explain, it doesn’t make any sense!” OR…”This is so hard to manage, it’s just so inconsistent and hard to predict!”
Sound or feel familiar?
What we do know from decades and decades of evidence-based research is that all behaviors happen for a reason. We all engage in tons of functional behaviors each day and we have learned these behaviors over time because they work for us. So when looking at challenging behaviors, we need to get to the root of the cause and ask ourselves…what’s the function? Another important component to consider is, what skill is missing and still needs to be taught to help this individual be more successful?
By utilizing various proven methods behavior analysts can help develop interventions for helping people change their behaviors. To determine functions of behaviors, one method we employ is to look at the ABC’s of behavior. For example if we are determining the function for a challenging behavior we also want to look at the antecedents (what happened immediately before the target behavior) and the consequences (what happened immediately after the behavior). With this information and a more comprehensive process of a functional analysis we can determine a probable function.
Research demonstrates that function-based interventions are far more effective in the long term than interventions that are not treating the functions of behaviors.
So by now you are probably wondering well, what are the 4 functions of behavior?
An easy way to remember this is: Everyone EATS
•(E)- escape: The individual behaves in order to get out of doing something he/she does not want to do.
•(A)- attention: The individual behaves to get any type of attention.
•(T)- tangibles: The individual behaves in order to gain access to something preferred such as a preferred item or participation in an enjoyable activity.
•(S)- sensory: The individual behaves in a specific way because it feels good to them.
For more information on how behavior therapy can help your child:
call Nicole King, M.A., ECE, BCBA, Psy.D. Candidate
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neuro-developmental disorder that affects an individuals’ social, communication and behavioral functioning. The current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders-5th Edition-Text Revision (DSM-5) outlines the current classification system for diagnosing and individualizing a patient’s needs and symptoms on the spectrum (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2013). The diagnosis of autism is characterized by identifying significant deficits in the areas of: social interactions, communication, restricted and repetitive behaviors. The most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, estimates that now 1 in 68 children (or 14.7 per 1,000 8 year olds) will be identified with ASD and the rate is predicted to steadily increase in the future (CDC, 2014). The increasing number of ASD cases yearly, calls for greater action and improved understanding of the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder.
This blog post will provide a review of the current cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) research on evidence based practices in the treatment of children and adolescents with ASD with co-morbid anxiety. “Children with autism experience a higher rate of co-morbid mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and disruptive behavior disorders than children with other communication disorders, children with intellectual disability and typically developing children” (Lickel, MacLean Jr., Blakely-Smith & Hepburn, p. 992, 2012). The central focus will be on providing a comparative review of the relevant empirically supported research for these three common CBT approaches with children under the ages of 18 with ASD and anxiety: Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Exposure Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Current Research in Treatment of Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders with Co-morbid Anxiety
As rates of autism increase, the use of cognitive behavioral therapy for this population has propelled increased research efforts and empirical attention. Many approaches to treating children with autism focus more on the behavioral procedures given some children with autism may present with lower cognitive functioning. “Although CBT typically includes a variety of treatment components, the cognitive skills emphasized during participation in the range of cognitive behavioral procedures include emotion recognition, self-reflection and metacognition (i.e., thinking about thinking), perspective taking, verbal ability, short-and long-term memory, and causal reasoning” (Lickel, et. al., p. 992-993, 2012). To arrive at a diagnosis of autism, children typically present with deficits and challenges in many of these cognitive functioning areas. Emotional identification, emotion recognition and discrimination of feelings can be more difficult for children on the autism spectrum. These skills are core components of CBT and therefore affective skill building may be necessary for this population prior to engaging in CBT interventions. When taking cognitive and verbal abilities into account while making individualized accommodations for skill functioning, children with autism can benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy (Lickel, et. al, 2012). Another central component of CBT is the ability to identify how our thoughts can be related to our feelings and behaviors. When compared to typically developing peers, most children with average cognitive abilities and ASD were able to differentiate and make connections between feelings and their behaviors (Lickel, et. al., 2012). Tailoring and individualizing treatment interventions is important as children with ASD are all unique in their developmental needs.
Children with autism spectrum disorders often present to therapy with comorbid anxiety (Lickel, et. al, 2012). Anxiety is estimated to occur between 42-85% of individuals with ASD (Selles & Storck, 2013). This additional presentation of anxiety may exacerbate and intensify social and behavioral impairments resulting from their ASD diagnosis. Concurrently, as children get older with higher functioning ASD, they may become more distressed and anxious due to the ability to recognize their social deficits when comparing themselves to their typical peers. They may desire to be more social but struggle with successful peer interactions. This may impact their self-esteem and increase anxiety in certain settings and relationships (Selles & Stork, 2013). While much research still needs to be conducted on evidence based treatments of ASD and comorbid anxiety, CBT outshines other approaches for its efficacy, low risk from implementation and long-term maintenance capabilities.
The clinician working with this populations should make additional considerations due to the multiple needs of children with ASD. Characteristics of children with autism can include a literal communicative style, therefore the therapist should tell it like it is in sessions. They can use language the child can relate to, or allow the child to give their input on what to call strategies and tools in sessions (Reaven & Hepburn, 2003). The high functioning autistic child can be very verbal but lack social communication and pragmatic skills. Using language based interventions such as social stories, comic strips and visuals can aid in facilitating cognitive understandings of the emotional and behavioral connections. The child with autism often values their autonomy, therefore the therapist should involve the child in decisions and collaborative planning throughout the sessions (Reaven & Hepburn, 2003). Another characteristic of autism is the individual may have a general lack of social understanding. The therapist can use more direct 1:1 training in the areas of social skills to improve the CBT intervention process. Finally, using the child’s preferences and interests to help motivate and engage them in treatment is essential. Being flexible and often checking in with the child to keep therapy novel and reinforcing will be an important strategy to incorporate in treatment activities.
Although more studies should continue, cognitive behavior therapy for high functioning children with autism, with an IQ over 70, can be effective in treating co-morbid anxiety. In a meta-analysis of several studies using CBT interventions to treat anxiety in children with autism, the research demonstrated that across interventions, flexibility was needed to address and accommodate individual needs (Ho & Stephenson, 2014). Although various co-morbidities can occur with ASD, anxiety is the most often researched mental health disorder regarding CBT and ASD. Adaptations for various components of CBT were needed. For example, one program targeted cognitive restructuring components, but called them thinking tools (Ho & Stephenson, 2014). Many of the behavioral intervention components for children with ASD receiving behavior therapy include practice of skills, homework, visual supports, relaxation training and emotion training. “On the other hand, some often-discussed CBA components such as cognitive restructuring, self-instruction, and problem solving were not commonly documented/reviewed in the studies” (Ho & Stephenson, p. 27, 2014). Some of the CBT intervention programs studied in this meta-analysis were: Coping Cat, Cool Kids, Social Skills Training and Facing your Fears. Group CBT has been shown to be an empirically sound intervention as well (McGillivray & Evert, 2014). Using a quasi-experimental design, a CBT group intervention program was implemented with 54 young adults with aspergers and 56% of the sample reported experiencing anxiety while 50% reported having recurrent depressive episodes (McGillivray & Evert, 2014). The participants in this study underwent 9 sessions using a ‘think well, feel well and be well’ group intervention and upon completion of the program, they reported improved psychological functioning with a reduction in negative thinking (McGillivray & Evert, 2014). The research demonstrates that these programs can be effective but proper individualization is needed and more research is needed on the cognitive considerations when using CBT with children with autism and comorbid anxiety.
Exposure Therapy for Children with Autism and Co-morbid Anxiety
Exposure therapy is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy that includes a step by step process to gradually expose an individual to anxiety provoking stimuli with the goal to improve distress tolerance skills over time. Children with autism spectrum disorders and comorbid anxiety may benefit from exposure based therapy when presenting with extreme fear and anxious responses. If their fears are limiting their overall functioning then exposure therapy can help improve their ability to access learning, interventions and healthy social interactions with others. Exposure therapy includes gradual exposure via a hierarchy of stimuli and response prevention by blocking previous maladaptive behaviors (Lehmkuhl, Storch, Bodfish & Geffken, 2008). When presented with anxiety provoking stimuli, the patients are prevented from completing their typical fear based response whether that be avoidance or compulsions (Selles & Storch, 2013). “Exposure to anxiety provoking stimuli without the maladaptive response results in habituation or reductions in anxiety” (Selles & Storch, p. 408, 2013). In the case of applying CBT exposure based techniques with children, parent involvement is important to improve treatment success (Reaven & Hepburn, 2003). As well, an area of concern when teaching new skills to children with autism is the difficulties in generalizing learned skills across multiple people and settings. The combination of including parents in sessions can also aid in improving generalization skills (Reaven & Hepburn, 2003).
Children with autism spectrum disorders can develop specific fears associated with a variety of activities and settings e.g.: medical visits, school refusals, food refusal and fears associated with aversive sensory stimuli. Rigidity and inflexibility are core features of autism spectrum disorders and can compound the effects of anxiety and specific fears on overall functioning (Koegel, Bharoocha, Ribnick, Ryan & Bucio, 2012). Certain accommodations can be made to improve the effectiveness of exposure therapy and individuals with ASD. Stimulus fading, slow progressions along the exposure heirarchy and reinforcements can improve exposure based techniques (Koegel, et. al., 2012). Again, individualizing the treatment to meet the developmental, communication and cognitive needs of the child with autism is important. Using visuals such as a behavior monitoring chart or visuals of the hierarchy chart can be a helpful accommodation. Mapping, using drawings or other representations to increase cognitive and social awareness about the fear or compulsive response is recommended (Reaven & Hepburn, 2003). The therapist can establish a hierarchy with the child in session, arranging stimuli from least to most distressing. At the same time, introducing a visual fear and worry thermometer to help the child conceptualize the cognitive and affective components of CBT. Allowing the child to give their input, ideas and interests into treatment is a helpful strategy to increase engagement and motivation with the autistic child (Reaven & Hepburn, 2003). As well, collaborating with the parents and child, a list of tools can be developed to help the child ‘beat’ the symptoms of anxiety and fear (Reaven & Hepburn, 2003). Visual strategies, social narratives, comic strips, social stories, taking a break, distraction, reward charts and relaxation strategies are individualized strategies the CBT therapist can utilize to improve exposure therapy interventions with ASD clients.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Children with Autism and Comorbid Anxiety
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a cognitive behavioral therapy intervention based on principles of behavioral science. It is often used to teach mindfulness and acceptance skills while focusing on behavior change as a catalyst for coping with unwanted thoughts and feelings associated with anxiety. While most of the interventions for children with autism involve the behavioral components of skill acquisition and behavior reduction programs, acceptance and commitment therapies look to improve emotional functioning and psychological flexibility (Dixon, 2014). What ACT attempts to do through mindfulness and acceptance interventions is to teach the child with autism to understand their disability. ACT can help a child become more psychologically flexible through teaching awareness in the moment, not becoming tied to their thoughts, accepting difficult and frustrating situations and finding their values to help them make healthier behavioral choices (Dixon, 2014). There are six interconnected components that make up the foundational pieces of ACT: present moment awareness, values, committed action, self-as-context, defusion and acceptance (Dixon, 2014).
Parents of children with disabilities experience a great deal of additional stress when compared to parents of typical developing children. Using acceptance and commitment therapy with parents can help alleviate parental distress as demonstrated by current research (Jones, Hastings, Totiska, Keane & Rhule, 2014). A research study evaluated the effectiveness of 71 mothers and 39 fathers of children with autism and utilized self-report measures such as the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) and child measures to identify their own positive and negative psychological well-being (Jones, et. al, 2014). “Psychological acceptance was found to act as a mediator variable for maternal anxiety, depression, and stress, and for paternal depression” (Jones, et. al, p. 171, 2014). Utilizing acceptance and mindfulness strategies was shown to be an effective intervention to navigate child behavior problems and improve parental well-being.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy is the most commonly researched and implemented intervention for those experiencing psychological distress. Cognitive models initially proposed by Ellis and Beck focus on identifying negative thinking, awareness of automatic thoughts and cognitive restructuring. Children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders experience a high rate of co-morbid anxiety in addition to their social, communication and behavioral deficits. Additional considerations should be to evaluate whether the core symptoms of ASD are causing increased anxiety or is the anxiety a separate condition? Cognitive behavior therapy, both individualized and in group settings, has shown to be beneficial for addressing the psychological needs of children and parents living with ASD. Since all children with autism present with their own set of unique strengths and challenges, careful consideration should be given to individualize treatment programs. The therapist is encouraged to make certain individualized accommodations to interventions to assist the child in engaging and being successful with therapy. Parental involvement is critical for the overall success of therapy programs including parent support for their own psychological distress, modeling of therapy programs at home and working towards generalization of learned replacement skills in multiple settings. Exposure therapy can be highly effective for phobias and irrational fear responses that children may adopt due to their rigid and un-flexible nature and the overstimulation they may receive from environmental stimuli. Acceptance and commitment therapy is showing to be a promising intervention for children with ASD and parents living with children who have ASD. However, given this is an emerging evidence based treatment, much more research needs to be conducted with the child population experiencing co-morbid anxiety with ASD. As the rates of autism diagnosis and identification steadily increase, I identified that more research needs to be conducted in the areas of mindfulness and acceptance therapy interventions. Eventually, children with ASD will grow up and need to be independent and working adults. Giving them the skills now through evidence based interventions and empirically sound practices towards accepting their strengths and limitations while teaching them the tools towards psychological well-being is critical.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatry Publishing, Inc.
Centers on Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). Prevalence of autism spectrum disorder among children aged 8 years- Utism and developmental disabilities monitoring network, 11 sites, United States, 2010. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss6302.pdf (February 21, 2017).
Dixon, M. (2014). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Children with Autism and Emotional Challenges. Carbondale, IL: Shawnee Scientific Press, LLC.
Ho, B., & Stephenson, J. (2014). Cognitive-behavioral approach for children with autism spectrum disorders: a meta-analysis. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 1, 18-33.
Jones, L., Hastings, R., Totiska, V. Keane, L. & Rhule, N. (2014). Child behavior problems and parental well-being in families of children with autism: the mediating role of mindfulness and acceptance. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 119, (2), 171-185.
Koegel, R., Bharoocha, A., Ribnick, C., Ribnick, R., Bucio, M., Fredeen, R. & Koegel, L. (2012). Using individualized reinforcers and hierarchical exposure to increase food flexibility in children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42, 1574-1581.
Lehmkuhl, H., Storch, E., Bodfish, J. & Geffken, G. (2008). Brief report: exposure and response prevention for obsessive compulsive disorder in a 12-year-old with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 977-981.
Lickel, A., MacLean Jr., W., Blakely-Smith, A. & Hepburn, S. (2012). Assessment of the prerequisite skills for cognitive behavioral therapy in children with and without autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42, 992-1000.
McGillivray, J.A., Evert, H.T. (2014). Group cognitive behavioural therapy program shows potention in reducing symptoms of depression and stress among young people with ASD. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders,44, 2041-2051.
Pahnke, J., Lundgren, T., Hursti, T., Hirvikoski, T. (2014). Outcomes of an acceptance and commitment therapy-cased skills training group for students with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder: A quasi-experimental pilot study. Sage Journals, 18, (8), 851-871.
Reaven, J., & Hepburn, S. (2003). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder in a child with Asperger syndrome. The National Autistic Society, 7, 145-164.
Selles, R., Storch, E. (2013). Translation of anxiety treatment to youth with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 22, 405-413.
Summer is over and went by too fast! In order to help you and your child with an IEP be as successful as you can be for the new school year, I've put together a short list of 5 back-to-school tips to help make the transition into a new school year a positive one!
1. Organize all the paperwork and review last years IEP:
The IEP in special education is the foundational plan for your child's educational program. Make sure to review the document before school starts, have a clear understanding of it, review those educational goals and mark down important dates on your calendar. Consider organizing everything in an IEP binder for home where you can store all the paperwork and a home/school communication log. Most importantly, children are ever changing and growing so be sure that this IEP still "fits" your child's current needs! If you are unsure, you can always contact your school team about holding an IEP review meeting.
2. Communicate and keep everyone informed:
Don't wait to the last minute to contact your child's school team. If you feel that over the summer there are any new concerns, changes, progress or questions regarding your child over the summer, don't hesitate to contact the school team a few weeks before the first day! The more honest and proactive you are, the better your school will be able to meet your child's needs.
3. Establish and practice the new school routine with your child:
Consider practicing the new daily school routine with your child before the first day. Focus on the morning and evening routines at home. Even better, if you can, visit the school, tour the new classrooms, meet the teachers to help with transitions or ease back to school jitters for your child.
4. Create some visuals for your child:
While you are at the school, snap some pictures of your child's teacher, classroom and other important areas of the school. Some children process information and transitions better when the are presented with visuals. This can also help with the emotional processing of the big changes coming up!
5. Make an "All About Me" sheet that you can share with the school team:
Balance the IEP and back to school meetings with a fun sheet that you can share with the teachers. Include on it a picture of your child & quick, easy facts/tips about your child such as: "what I am good at", "what keeps me motivated", "what bothers me," etc. You are an expert on your child, so be sure that the school team hears from you about what works!
At ABC Behavioral Services, LLC. we utilize PRT techniques in sessions when applicable...Here is an article re-post from Autism Speaks that discusses some of the benefits of integrating PRT into ABA therapy. Happy Reading!
"Early results from a preliminary study on Pivotal Response Training (PRT) suggest that its use in young children with autism improves their brain responses to social cues. The improved brain activity corresponded with improvements in the children’s social skills
Kevin Pelphrey, Ph.D., and colleagues from the Yale Child Study Center reported their results at the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR).
The researchers captured human motion patterns with points of light. The researchers followed six children, ages 4 to 6, who completed four months of PRT. Before and after treatment, the children underwent a noninvasive brain scan. Specifically the researchers used functional magnetic resonance imagining (fMRI) to track activity in parts of the brain associated with sociability.
During the scans, the children viewed videos of moving lights. Some of the lights followed random motion patterns. Others traced human-like motions.
The researchers created the human motion patterns by filming someone moving in a dark room with lights on his major joints. (See image on left.) Previous studies have shown that this type of motion activates social parts of the brain in individuals with typical brain development. By contrast, individuals with autism tend to show little difference in their brain responses to human versus random motion patterns.
During an IMFAR press conference, the researchers described their preliminary results with two children. After 4 months of PRT, both children responded to the human light patterns with significantly more activity in brain regions associated with recognizing social cues. Both children also showed remarkable gains in social and communication skills. The researchers measured these skills using widely accepted checklists of behaviors associated with autism.
After PRT, brain activity increased in response to human-like motion.
Pivotal Response Training
PRT is a form of autism therapy based on the techniques of Applied Behavioral Analysis. PRT therapists interact with children in a play environment. During play, they encourage important social behaviors, or “pivotal responses.” A number of studies have shown PRT to be effective in building new social and communication skills. The Yale study was the first to look for changes in the brain activity associated with social interactions following PRT.
Early Intervention and Improved Brain Function
Last year, a larger, randomized and controlled study of the Early Start Denver Model provided the first scientific evidence that early intervention for autism can improve brain function.
“Such research is of interest for two primary reasons,” comments Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Geri Dawson, Ph.D. “First, it suggests that early intervention may actually change the course of brain development in children with autism. Second, it suggests that brain scans may help predict who will benefit from a given therapy and provide an objective measure of its benefits.”
For access to full article on the autism speaks website, please click the link below...
ADHD/ Learning Disabilities
According to the CDC, children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors (may act without thinking about what the result will be), or be overly active. Although ADHD can't be cured, it can be successfully managed and some symptoms may improve as the child ages.
According to the CDC parents report, approximately 9.5% or 5.4 million children 4-17 years of age have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2007. Rates of diagnosis continue to increase.
Signs and symptoms of ADHD may be:
For some very great information about Learning Disabilities please visit the National Center for Learning Disabilities Website: http://www.ncld.org. Learning disabilities are neurological disorders that affect the child’s brain ability to process, store, receive and respond to information. Each child will be affected individually with their LD. Some common learning disabilities are: dyslexia, dysgraphia, executive functioning, ADHD and others.
For some children with ADHD/ LD’s challenging behavior may be a concern. Some of these concerns may include: not following directions and off task or disruptive behaviors in school and at home. With Applied Behavior Analysis, a behavior plan can be designed. Nicole will work with the child, parents and teachers to discuss goals and the implementation process. Some ABA strategies may include teaching the child organizational skills, self-management and self-regulation skills. The program may utilize effective strategies such as: visual aides, visual schedules, helping to arrange the environment to support the child, task organization and management.
This is not a complete listing of signs and symptoms of ADHD/LD’s, nor does it replace a formal diagnosis. Nicole provides this as an general informational tool for parents. If you have concerns about your child’s development or feel your child is not advancing at the rate of his or her peers, please contact me for a consultation or make an appointment with your developmental and behavioral pediatrician.
What are Autism Spectrum Disorders?
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD's) are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. According to the CDC, now 1:88 children are being diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Studies show ASD affects more boys than girls.
Signs and symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders:
Basic social interaction can be difficult for children with autism spectrum disorders. Symptoms may include:
Speech and language:
Problems with speech, language comprehension and functional communication are common signs of autism spectrum disorders. Symptoms may include:
Restricted behavior and play
Children with autism spectrum disorders are often restricted, rigid, and even obsessive in their behaviors, activities, and interests. Symptoms may include:
Applied Behavioral Analysis is an effective and evidence based treatment with children who have been diagnosed with an ASD. The services provided vary greatly depending on child’s individual needs. With ABA, behavior assessments and programs are created that are effective in reducing challenging behaviors associated with ASD while teaching new replacement skills. ABA treatment can be useful in teaching behaviors to children who have ASD because they may not learn these skills necessarily on their own as easily. ABA is an educational and behavioral intervention that can target language, communication, social, life and play skills.
If you have a young child (16-30 months) and are concerned, the M-CHAT is an online preliminary parent screening tool. You can find it here at:
This is not a complete listing of signs and symptoms of an autism spectrum disorder, nor does it replace a formal diagnosis. Nicole provides this as a general informational tool for parents. If you have concerns about your child’s development or feel your child is not advancing at the rate of his or her peers, please contact me for a consultation or make an appointment with your developmental and behavioral pediatrician.
This is a nicely summarized article about Autism Spectrum that was shared to me, and I thought I would share it here with you. I have copied and pasted the article and included a reference link below. Happy reading :)
WHAT IS CONSIDERED MILD AUTISM?
Does your child have high functioning autism?
By Kate Miller-Wilson
"After you receive an autism diagnosis for yourself or your child, the next logical step is to wonder about the severity of the disorder. Autism is called a “spectrum” for a good reason: symptoms can range dramatically from very mild to very severe. It can help to understand how mild autism is different from more severe forms of the disorder.
Understanding What Is Considered Mild Autism. Autism is defined and diagnosed based on several important criteria. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a person who receives this diagnosis typically displays impairment in three major areas: social interaction, communication, and behavior. These challenges manifest themselves differently, depending on whether the individual has severe, moderate, or mild autism.
Social Skills and High Functioning Autism. Caregivers often note that a person with autism may appear to be in his or her own world. In high functioning autism, these social symptoms can be a bit less obvious than they are in more severe cases.
Communication Skills and Mild Autism. Communication challenges can be one of the most difficult aspects of living with autism. These challenges vary dramatically based on the severity of the disorder.
Behavior and High Functioning Autism. Certain behaviors are a hallmark of any level of autistic impairment, but they can vary dramatically depending on the functioning level of the individual.
The following autism websites can also be helpful:
Article published in edRepublic. You can find it here by clicking on link below:
The latest reports from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that 1:88 children will be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. What is autism? Autism is not a specific disease but a collection of complex disorders of the brain known as autism spectrum disorders or ASD’s. Why has the number of children diagnosed increased steadily over the past few years? One could speculate that the increase could be a result of a combination of factors. For example, more behaviors are being included in the definition of ASD (the definition is changing again with the new DSM-5 this year). As well, public and medical professionals are able to identify the diagnosis earlier with better screening tools. As autism becomes more prevalent, medical professionals, researchers and parents continue to try to understand the best treatment interventions. Often parents receive the diagnosis and then are left to wonder, “now what?” Navigating these options can be overwhelming. There are several books, magazines and plenty of information online that can provide information about current autism treatments. The problem is that the information presented can sometimes be misleading and may imply the interventions will be effective even without substantial validated research to support their claims. So an important consideration when choosing treatments for your child with autism is to ask yourself:
The National Professional Development Center (NPDC) on ASD has adopted the following definition of evidence-based practices (EBP).
Definition of Evidence-Based Practice:
To be considered an evidence-based practice for individuals with ASD, efficacy must be established through peer-reviewed research in scientific journals using:
2. Is ABA evidence based?
Yes. To this date, several peer reviewed research articles have been published demonstrating the effectiveness of using specific ABA strategies to support positive behavioral interventions and skill acquisition. ABA techniques have been well researched and demonstrated to be one of the best treatments available for children with ASD, other developmental disorders or behavioral concerns to increase independent and educational functioning. The scientific principles of ABA can be effectively utilized to understand behaviors, minimize concerning behaviors as well as teach new skills and desired behaviors.
With all this said, parents you know your child the best. You are an expert on your child’s needs. Not every child will benefit from the same treatment packages. Hopefully some of this knowledge will help you in making these important decisions.
Be well and Happy New Year 2013 :)
Part of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) is understanding and determining the functions of challenging behavior and teaching replacement behaviors. It is commonly used as (but not limited to) an effective intervention for autism spectrum disorders. A facet of ABA is determining what is reinforcing the function of the problem behavior and how to shape new behavior with various behavioral modification techniques.
Do you like to reward yourself? I know I do. Once I am done writing this blog, I will reward myself with a nice hot cup of coffee since that is very reinforcing for me. Everyone has different individual preferences and motivators that are reinforcing for their behaviors. Part of ABA is identifying what is reinforcing to individuals and creating behavioral changes with that knowledge (more on motivators and preferences later). You may ask how is it possible to modify behavior? Well, behavior is measurable and observable. Behavior is learned. This can be further illustrated with the ABC’s of behavior.
Antecedent: Student is asked to write a summary on a piece of paper in class.
Behavior: Student rips up the paper, screams and throws unfinished work in the trash.
Consequence: Student is taken to time out and leaves the classroom for a break. Child has avoided the writing task, so the function of the behavior is avoidance.
Here, student was attempting to avoid a non-preferred task. His behavior was reinforced by being taken out of the room which increases the likelihood student will repeat behavior again with more frequency.
Through behavior analysis techniques, we may learn that student really enjoys working on the IPAD. This time, we are asking the student to work towards the reward of the IPAD.
Antecedent: The teacher asks the student to complete writing work.
Behavior: Student completes work as assigned.
Consequence: Appropriate behavior is reinforced with a preferred activity of 3 minutes on the IPAD.
Here the reinforcing value of the IPAD was greater than leaving the classroom for a break. Therefore in example 2 we were able to reinforce the desired behavior vs. the undesired behavior in example 1. Reinforcement is a crucial aspect of ABA and shaping new behaviors.
So put very simply, you now have some knowledge of basic concepts of ABA... and now I am going to go reward myself with a nice cup of hot coffee :)
Here is an article I copied and pasted from the Autism Speaks Website on helpful tips for getting through the holidays with autism....
Holiday Tips Helping Parents of Kids with Autism Handle the Unique Challenges of the Holiday Season
The holiday season is a joyful time, but as we all know, it can also be incredibly stressful. Nobody appreciates this more than the parents and families of children with autism, who already face unique challenges.
Routines and structure are more difficult to maintain during the chaos of the holidays, and kids with autism must deal with new faces, places and a disruption of their schedules. And, since many children with autism are also sensitive to noise, touch and light, the din of the holidays can become disorienting and overwhelming. This can mean a new level of stress and anxiety.
The following are tips provided by medical experts, educators and families of kids with autism. Several of the professionals and parents are available to discuss these and other ideas for making the holidays more fun for everyone involved: