An Introduction to Applied Behavior Analysis
By David Kalmeyer (Parent of Child with Autism)
From CT FEAT – http://www.ctfeat.org
Although there are many therapies, teaching programs, dietary regimens, and other interventions available to families of children with Autism and other Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD), only one has been documented to have produced significant and comprehensive improvements, up to and including recovery. That method is a program of intervention based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).
ABA has been known by many names, including “behavioral intervention” and “behavioral treatment.” Although other therapies may prove to be beneficial for some children, either alone or as a supplement to an ABA program, none has yet been documented to be effective. ABA is also referred to as Discrete Trial Therapy or DTT, since the discrete trial method of teaching forms an integral part of any program. But this name is a misnomer since an ABA program involves other components in addition to discrete trials.
ABA is also sometimes referred to as “Lovaas treatment,” after the Professor at UCLA who first packaged these methods and documented their success for teaching children with autism. But Lovaas is just one “brand” of ABA. There are many other successful programs in the United States using these methods including many well known programs here in the Northeast. For example, in Massachusetts there are the New England Center for Children and the May Center. In New Jersey, there is the Princeton Child Development Institute (founded in 1970) and the Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center. Just this year, Connecticut opened its first ABA center, the Connecticut Center for Child Development in Fairfield.
So what is ABA? It is a program of intensive one on one teaching based on research first published by B.F. Skinner in 1938 and later expanded upon by many others. Successful use of ABA methods for children with Autism was first documented in 1967. But use of ABA didn’t become widespread until 1993, when Catherine Maurice published ” Let Me Hear Your Voice,” her moving account of the recovery of her two children from autism. That same year, a highly regarded, peer-reviewed journal published research documenting the extraordinary gains made by children receiving intensive behavioral intervention (McEachin, Smith, & Lovaas, 1993, ” Long Term Outcome for Children With Autism Who Received Early Intensive Behavioral Treatment,” American Journal of Mental Retardation, Vol.97, pp. 359-372). This article will introduce the basics of what an Applied Behavior Analysis program is and answer some of the questions parents ask most often.