Wednesday, March 14, 2007
ABA Helping Nick a 4 Year Old Autistic Boy
The Times-Tribune of Scranton PA has a good article about autism and how autistic children are helped with Applied Behavior Analysis therapy. Parents who actually use ABA therapy to help their children are probably aware that ABA is practiced with a positive reward system, with tasks broken down into constituent elements and successful task completion rewarded. But parents who are still trying to sort out rhetoric from reality when deciding how to help their children cease negative, injurious behavior and develop positive skills and behaviors might be dissuaded by the fears and prejudices of those who are emotionally opposed to ABA or who themselves have had no actual experience with it in helping their child grow and develop. The political ideology of the anti-cure, anti-treatment, movement will also be intimidating to some parents, some of whom may not be aware of the hundreds of professional studies supporting the effectiveness of ABA in treating and educating autistic children. The Times-Tribune article is written in straight forward non-technical language and parents trying to decide what is the right thing to do for their children should be encouraged to read it.
The article tells the story of 4 year old Nick who is learning at the Friendship House’s Northeast Regional Center for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders which treats autistic children and youths from 18 months to 20 years. Children receive 30 hours a week of rigorous therapy based on up to date research but the essence of the therapy is ABA delivered with positive reinforcement to encourage success.
"The center’s approach relies primarily on the principles of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), in which the standard learning methods for a child are broken up into “the tiniest possible bites,” said the center’s clinical director, Chris Remick.
“I think it’s one of the now proven ways of improving treatment of children with autism,” said Thomas Challman, M.D., a neurodevelopmental pediatrican at Geisinger Health System in Danville specializing in autism. “It’s got a good scientific basis.”
The article describes how ABA is used with 4 year old Nick:
"Every couple of minutes, Ms. Bienick lays down a new set of index cards containing things — colors, numbers, family members — Nick has to identify entirely by pointing, given that he doesn’t speak. From there, he completes a puzzle, practices the hand movements to the kiddie favorite “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” and matches sounds with their corresponding objects.
Each time Nick gets something right, Ms. Bienick offers an ample dose of encouragement.
“Awesome, Nick, give me five!”
“Good job, Nick!”
When the demonstration ends, Nick, 4, goes over to a computerized device and presses a button with a cup above it. Ms. Bienick promptly gives him a drink."
The children also engage in group play and interaction. Positive reinforcement, not aversives or abusive treatment, is a key ingredient:
"Positive reinforcement on behalf of the teacher, or direct service provider (DSP), is another crucial component of ABA methodology, Ms. Remick said.
“If it’s not motivating, they’re not going to do it,” she said."
Some of the more ludicrous critiques about the use of ABA therapy which circulate on the internet are based on decades old aversive methodology no longer in general use. Parents should listen to other parents who, like them, are charged morally and legally, with doing the best they can for their children, and to the actual ABA clinicians who practice ABA therapy not the ideologues who bear no responsibility or accountability for the consequences of their efforts to dissuade parents from using proven ABA therapy to help their autistic children.
Or, they could do as the anti-ABA ideologues say and listen to autistics themselves. Not the high functioning internet guru anti-cure autistics. They should listen to 4 year old Nick.