Is it Autism?
Autism is characterized by a variety of behaviors or impairments, each of which is associated with the three major categories outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V-TR) diagnosis. These categories are: Communication, Behavior & Interests, and Social Interaction. Individuals diagnosed with Autism exhibit delayed development in each area. Though a child needs to be assessed by a trained clinician, families may observe behaviors typical of an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as early as a child’s first birthday.
The focus is the quality of communication. Individuals on the Autism spectrum may experience delays in the development of spoken language, non-functional or repetitive use of language, the inability to sustain or initiate conversations, or a level of imaginative play that is not developmentally appropriate (or similar to that of peers).
Behavior & Interests
This category focuses on the patterns that appear in an individual’s behavior or interests. Individuals on the Autism spectrum may be particularly rigid in their daily routines or rigid in their focus – some children with this challenge may feel that they need to wear a certain shirt each day or only play with red toys. Physical repetition may be a pattern a well – individuals with autism may engage in a behavior known as “stemming” – for example, a child may rapidly wave his or her hands in response to excitement or agitation.
Again, the focus is the quality of interaction that an individual engages in. The delays in social interaction exhibited by individuals on the Autism spectrum can be a lack in social or emotional reciprocation or diminished use of nonverbal expressions (gestures, eye contact, body language, or facial expressions). Delays in this category may also include challenges developing age-appropriate relationships with peers or lack of the desire to share interests, experiences, or achievements with others.
While ABA is regularly used in the treatment of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, it can be applied across a wide range of individuals, deficits, and environments to improve development and skill acquisition. The critical component in any ABA program is the application of behavioral analytic principles to identify and modify the antecedents and consequences of behavior. Antecedents are the stimuli that precede any observed behavior, while Consequences are employed immediately after observed behavior to both reinforce positive behavior and decrease negative behavior.
Through the use of empirically researched and validated techniques, ABA seeks to improve and foster age appropriate skills in language & communication, social interaction, self-care, and coping while reducing the frequency of behaviors that are detrimental to individual development.