Manual Effective Programs for Treating Autism Spectrum Disorder: Applied Behavior Analysis Models

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ABA is an evidence-based model of teaching and learning that encourages meaningful change in areas ranging from social skills and academics to life skills and job training. It is widely recognized as an effective treatment for autism spectrum disorder by the U. In fact, decades of research have shown that intensive ABA treatment is the most successful approach for children with autism.

These steps are taught with the individual in mind, and the approach is tailored to best suit their learning style and needs. As each step is mastered, the next is tackled and linked to the ones that came before it—until an individual is able to accomplish a desired skill.

ABA utilizes scientific and ethical approaches to understanding why people do what they do and helps people make meaningful changes to their behavior. It is unclear why the students in our study majoring in ABA had the lowest levels of BA, and, more concerning, the lowest levels of warmth, across all groups of human services providers. But this is a strikingly compelling finding.

It could be beneficial for the field of ABA to conduct a large-scale self-study effort to investigate this phenomenon. Several limitations need to be acknowledged as a function of the preliminary nature of this study. As most researchers would appreciate, any innovative concept is more likely to be refined through systematic replications over time. Limitations of this research include the relatively small sample size of therapists observed and the fact that we conducted observations within only one setting. Future replications should be conducted in a variety of environments including homes, schools, and clinics outside of university-based environments.

Although this was addressed somewhat in the parent surveys, most of this study occurred at a university in the Southwestern part of the United States.

Education and Treatment of Children

It would have been ideal to conduct this research as a multi-site study to determine, for example, if there are any regional, cultural, or national differences in BA repertoires or parental expectations. Because the university autism center where this study was conducted already screens and hires therapists who demonstrate a certain level of BA, we would anticipate greater ranges of interpersonal behaviors within other settings.

A related possible limitation was that the observers in this study were former therapists at the autism center. Additionally, a limitation was that we were unable to control for the number of NET versus DTT sessions because our random assignment of observed therapy sessions, which led to an over-representation of NET sessions.

This disparity in sessions represented a possible confounding factor for our obtained results. Another limitation is related to classification of the student respondents of the 16PF survey.

Autism 209: Early Intervention in Autism: Overview of Seattle Children’s Autism Center Model (2017)

Although we categorized respondents by majors, our analyses did not separately account for respondents who had different graduate and undergraduate degree majors e. In the former case, we categorized respondents into the major of their most advanced degree.


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However, we did not account for the latter situation. It is possible that various combinations of education and training could have impacted our results. Future research should seek to conduct a component analysis of the full package of BA traits.

Efforts should also be made to investigate the concept of artistry within different formats of ABA therapy in order to determine if any differences exist. A final limitation is that we had a non-random sample. While it is not uncommon for such sampling methods in online survey research, they do present some limitations. Results cannot necessarily be assumed to represent the larger population.

There is also the potential for bias based on individuals who self-selected to participate compared to those who elected not to participate. With its resolute emphasis on the primacy of socially relevant outcomes within the practice of ABA, Baer et al. In autism treatment, what could be more important than improving specific behaviors of the practitioners applying ABA, in order to ensure the most socially valid and generalizable outcomes?

Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children and Adolescents

These behaviors necessarily must include the ways in which behavior analysts establish and maintain positive, socially valid therapeutic relationships with their clients and other consumers. The time is right, we believe, to renew long-discarded efforts to systematically address humanistic elements of the evidence-based delivery of ABA treatment in autism. The framework of BA offers an opportunity to expand both the repertoires of effective practitioners and the future dimensions of ABA. The authors wish to acknowledge Ms. Kristin Farmer and Dr.

KC conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, and drafted the manuscript.

Applied Behavior Analysis: Teaching Procedures and Staff Training for Children with Autism

RMF and SM participated in the design and coordination of the study, and helped to draft the manuscript. AS participated in the design and coordination of the study, and helped to perform the measurement. XA participated in the design and coordination of the study, helped to draft the manuscript, and performed the statistical analyses. The original version of this article was revised due to a retrospective Open Access order.

Publisher's Note. Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Change history. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. J Autism Dev Disord. Published online May Kevin Callahan , 1 Richard M. Richard M. Susan M.

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Author information Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Kevin Callahan, Email: ude. Corresponding author. This article has been corrected. See J Autism Dev Disord. Abstract This study investigated interpersonal skills associated with the concept of behavioral artistry BA , a repertoire of practitioner behaviors including care, attentiveness, and creativity, among others, associated with the effective delivery of applied behavior analysis ABA treatment.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder, Applied behavior analysis, Social validity, Evidence-based practices, Therapeutic alliance, Behavioral artistry.


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  • According to Leaf and colleagues, the pervasive use of ABA in autism treatment has resulted in changes in its scope and focus, and behavioral interventions have become potentially less effective: A danger inherent in any large scale, quickly growing area is a loss of focus on meaningful purpose, process, and outcomes. Method Procedures and Instruments Measuring Behavioral Artistry Our research process required the identification of a reliable way to define and measure interpersonal characteristics associated with the repertoire of BA.

    Open in a separate window. Factor Examination, Model Comparison, and Model Modification Statistical modeling was conducted to further analyze the 15 personality factors in order to determine which factors had the greatest explanatory and predictive power related to the concept of BA.

    Evidence-based Treatment Options for Autism

    Therapist Observations To determine if autism interventionists with higher and lower levels of BA characteristics deliver ABA services differently, observations were conducted of behavioral therapists at a university-based autism treatment center who completed the 16PF survey and scored in the highest and lowest quartile among participants.

    Behavioral Technology The videotaped therapy sessions were used to separately rate the quality of BT skills, defined as the fidelity of implementation of previously trained DTT and NET therapy components. Results Parent Validation Eighty-six parents of children with autism completed an online survey asking them to choose from two descriptors of 16PF characteristics representing BA or its corresponding non-BA pole.

    Survey respondent group Mean percentage of behavioral artistry characteristics Applied behavior analysis Special education Rehabilitation counseling Other human services Non-human services Combined Discussion At its core, this research attempts to answer the overarching question posed more than three decades ago by Richard Foxx: What are the behaviors that make some behavior analysts better than others? Research Limitations Several limitations need to be acknowledged as a function of the preliminary nature of this study. Conclusions With its resolute emphasis on the primacy of socially relevant outcomes within the practice of ABA, Baer et al.

    Acknowledgments The authors wish to acknowledge Ms. Author Contributions KC conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, and drafted the manuscript. Footnotes The original version of this article was revised due to a retrospective Open Access order. Publisher's Note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

    References 16PF homepage. Validity of the 16PF reasoning ability scale. Psychological Reports. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Therapist effects: Facilitative interpersonal skills as a predictor of therapist success. Journal of Clinical Psychology.

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    Some current dimensions of applied behavior analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis.


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