Behavioral Intervention

Numerous studies in peer-reviewed journals have documented the effectiveness of intensive early behavioral intervention for children with autism (Lovaas, 1987; Maurice et al., 1996; McEachin, Smith & Lovaas, 1993). Treatment should be initiated when the child is young in order to obtain the best results. Behavioral intervention aims to improve the child’s functioning and reduce his or her risk of out-of-home placement by remediating skill deficits and replacing problem behaviors with ones that are more appropriate. Specific goals include increasing the child’s independent functioning in the areas of language, communication, social skills, adaptive behavior, and management of inappropriate behaviors. This is accomplished through the use of Applied Behavior Analysis.

What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) involves the application of behavioral principles to analyze and subsequently modify the conditions that produce or maintain a given behavior. Target behaviors are operationally defined and the environmental conditions under which the behaviors occur are identified. One method of instruction that is used to teach a new behavior or modify an existing one, is the discrete trial. A discrete trial is a technique that entails teaching a single skill at one time by breaking the skill down into smaller parts and practicing the skill until mastery. There are several components of a discrete trial.