Monday, December 10, 2007

Autism and ABA - The Testimony of Dr. Phillip Strain

Michael Goldberg at Autism Bulletin has published an informative comment on the recent arbitral ruling in favor of a Colorado family which sought coverage for under their health insurance policy for Applied Behavior Analysis therapy for their autistic daughter. Mr. Goldberg noted the effort by the health insurance provider in media interviews to provide a narrow interpretation of the award and limit its use as a precedent in other cases. In his comment rebutting that effort he cited some of the testimony of Dr. Phillip Strain, who characterized ABA as broader than the original Lovaas methods and testified to its wide acceptance as an accepted autism intervention:

According to Dr. Strain, instead of being investigational and experimental, ABA therapy reduces problem behaviors 80 to 90 percent and studies have replicated these results repeatedly.

Finally, Dr. Strain testified that the ABA therapy received by Abby was endorsed by the National Academy of Sciences—the recognized authority in the United States for resolving scientific disputes. Dr. Strain's opinions were echoed b Dr. Huckabee, Abby's treater for autism. Both Dr. Strain's and Huckabee's opinions are supported by the National Institute of Mental Health's publication on Autism Spectrum Disorders: "Among the many methods available for treatment and education of people with autism, applied behavior analysis (ABA) has become widely accepted as an effective treatment. Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General states: 'Thirty years of research demonstrated the efficiency of applied behavior methods in reducing inappropriate behavior and increasing social behavior.'"

Mr. Goldberg also provides a helpful link to the brief summary of Dr. Strain's biography on the University of Colorado Denver web site:

Brief Bio-2004

Phil Strain, PhD, is a Professor of Educational Psychology and Director of the Positive Early Learning Experiences Center at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center. Throughout his 34 year career he has focused his professional efforts on developing, evaluating, and replicating behavioral intervention for young children with autism and children who engage in aggression and anti-social behavior prior age three. The results of his conceptual, methodological, and empirical work have been published in over 200 professional papers and intervention manuals have been translated for use throughout Europe, Asia, and South America. Dr. Strain has been the Principal Investigator for dozens of federal and state grants totaling over 34 million dollars.

His current work is focused on two areas. First, Dr. Strain is involved in replicating the LEAP Preschool model for young children with autism (one of 8 empirically-validated programs recognized by the National Academies of Science) across the U.S. Some 100 classrooms in 20 states are now replicating LEAP. Second, Dr. Strain is involved in a number of national consortia efforts to prevent and remediate severe behavior problems in young children.

Dr. Strain also maintains a busy schedule of professional service. He is on the editorial board of 10 journals, he is a grant reviewer for NIH and the U.S. Department of Education, he served recently on the National Academies of Science Ad Hoc Group on Early Intervention for Children with Autism, and he has been a consultant on early intervention practices to the Federal Interagency Coordinating Council, Canada, Italy, Ireland, Brazil, more than 20 states, and 25 Universities.

Dr. Strain is the recipient of career achievement awards from the Division for Early Childhood and the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children. His research on peer-mediated social skill intervention was recognized as being one of the 10 most influential discoveries in the field of behavioral disorders.

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