Applied Behavior Analysis, also known as ABA, is the theoretical foundation that underlies all of ABC’s clinical practices and educational development. Each child receives a comprehensive functional assessment that identifies core deficits and excesses interfering with the child’s ability to learn and participate in daily life at home, school and in the community. To play and to be social are crucial aspects of the human experience and are repertoires that many children with autism have extreme difficulty in learning. Thus, deficits in these skills require attention and remediation. To this end, ABC’s intervention includes ways to measure and impact this particularly important facet of a child’s life.
All assessments and development of treatment procedures are performed by qualified staff in Behavior Intervention.
The importance of developmental milestones
Working within the parameters of applied behavior analysis, ABC’s evaluation includes an assessment of the child’s current skill levels guided by standardized developmental milestones including play and social repertoires. This provides a more accurate depiction of where to direct therapy. These milestones are assessed throughout and at the end of intervention. This gives a clearer picture of the effectiveness of the intervention, and in our experience results in greater generalization of the acquired skills needed. Because play and social skills are such an integral part of each child’s program, the same assessment and outcome measures are used to evaluate these types of deficits found in children with autism/ASD and other neurological and behavioral disorders to develop appropriate treatment programs.
Parent involvement and training is core
Parents play a central role in a child’s development. One of our goals is to provide the best guidance, advice and training to ensure a consistent approach in caring for your child in both our center-based and in-home programs. Hence, we have an open doorpolicy where parents can come and observe the programs anytime upon appointment. We also include parent/caregiver training individualized for your specific child’s needs as part of our package. This maximizes the effectiveness of our program for your child.
Language and social skills are priority
The acquisition of language is one of our most primary goals. Communication is a critical aspect to every program and is emphasized throughout. Each child learns to request his or her wants/needs, taught to comment about the world around them, answer questions, imitate the language of others, and eventually read, write and finally to respond in their own words. The rate which these skills are learned are determined by the child’s overall deficits and competing excesses. These repertoires are the bases for interacting in a social world, thus, opportunities to use these language skills spontaneously within a variety of social settings and activities are provided. We use several methods to stimulate language such as PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) and sign language, particularly, for children who have significant deficits in vocalizing. The focus is on building a functional communication repertoire where the child can request/reject, comment and interact with others. We concurrently teach vocalization to give the child the foundational skills for language development.
Data based analysis is fundamental
Data specific to behaviors of each child is a fundamental basis upon which we create an individualized program. Hence, data of how the child responds is meticulously collected during each session, and this is then analyzed fully - daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly - to determine the child’s rate of improvement, and serve as the guide to determine how to progress the child’s program.
Unique and individualized programs
Each child’s program is uniquely developed for his or her needs. Every child receives a comprehensive functional assessment that identifies core deficits and excesses that impact learning, daily living and family-social life. This is the basis upon which an Intervention Program is individually designed to address each child’s unique needs and learning style. Intervention is continuously adapted as the child’s progresses to higher skill levels
Intervention on advance language
The general focus is on executive function deficits where difficulty with recall, organization and processing information effects everyday interactions with the environment. Intervention may also involve social skills training (individual and group), teaching of self-management and coping skills, problem-solving, as well as, relaxation/desensitization training when needed.
1:1 Child/Adult Ratio
ABC believes in providing a 1 to 1 ratio to ensure appropriate focus is given to each child, especially at the start of a program. Only when a child is ready and can benefit from social interactions do we then enhance the program to enable interaction in pairs or small groups.
Generalization of skills is emphasized
To address the difficulties commonly faced in children with Autism when generalizing new skills learned, ABC’s 5 level generalization program was developed in 1996 by Co-founder Brenda Terzich-Garland, referred to as R.E.A.L. (Recreating Environment to Accelerate Learning; Terzich-Garland, 1996). Each child’s assessment and educational program is guided by R.E.A.L.to more successfully generalize learned skills from a highly structured environment to the natural environment. In particular, mands (requests), play and social skills are taught at the beginning and continue to be built upon throughout the child’s intervention and transition into the public school. R.E.A.L. involves moving away from the table to novel situations, rewording requests, adding natural environmental distracters, requiring the skills in daily life routines, and responding to social contingencies while still maintaining the learned behavior. Therapy is guided by ABC's R.E.A.L. program during assessment, treatment development and lesson progression. R.E.A.L. is also used to program the eventual integration of learned skills into the daily life requirements of the child, including relations with the social community.
Positive Programming in ABA intervention for behavior problems
To address serious behavior problems that often prevent children from learning new skills or maintain existing appropriate behaviors, ABC uses Positive Programming procedures (also written into the Hughes Bill, AB2586). With this technology, a descriptive analysis is performed and a functional analysis is made of the behavior.
In other words, we analyze the environmental antecedents and consequences to see what is evoking the problem behavior or what the student gets out of the behavior. Intervention plans are developed based on the outcome of the functional analysis, and continue throughout the intervention to determine the effectiveness of the procedure in reducing the problem behavior. Many problem behaviors are prevented by extinction and/or redirection and can suffice to solve the situation. Others are easily decreased by teaching alternative functional behaviors to replace those that serve to get attention or escape such as calling the person’s name or asking for a break. Overall, we believe problem behavior is a result of poor environmental contingencies, and it is these contingencies we change rather than try to suppress behavior with punishment.
The R.E.A.L. Model
In order to effectively address the lack of concept generalization so the individual with Autism/ASD can respond to the natural contingencies in the environment, ABA treatment must be designed to promote repertoires that will allow he/she to come into contact with those natural contingencies without structured training. To further enhance the generalization process in ABA intervention, ABC’s Co-founder, Vice-President & CEO Brenda Terzich-Garland developed the R.E.A.L. (Recreating Environments to Accelerate Learning) Model in 1996. It is used as the theoretical and conceptual framework for ABA treatment at Applied Behavior Consultants, Inc. and as a curriculum guide for teaching generalization at the start of treatment and throughout.
The R.E.A.L. Model delineates 5 levels of generalization that guide the development of lessons designed from the individual’s comprehensive behavioral assessment and then used as a curriculum guide for lesson development and progression throughout the ABA treatment.
The process starts from initial concept and skill acquisition taught in a highly structured environment and systematically introduces stimuli and contingencies that eventually represent what the individual will come into contact with in the natural environment. Each step provides the generality of behaviors expected and the generalization of behavioral principles and techniques needed for correct lesson implementation by the therapist (behavior technician).
Special emphasis highlights the need to bridge concepts and skills to teach complex repertoires, establish multiple-control and generalize social behavior to the verbal community in a variety of natural settings. More specifically, as the individual readily displays skills taught in structured teaching across predictable daily routines, emphasis of intervention is on skill performance focusing on complexity and accuracy of repertoires acquired. Intervention then moves towards teaching the quality of repertories performed in social situations that are typical for the individual’s age so behaviors are performed based on the verbal behavior of others.
The focus is on social competence where behaviors the individual learns lead to doing what is required or desired, stop or modify what is not acceptable, and generalize the acquired social repertories across novel situations.