Our Treatment Approach

Our treatment approach is based on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and is modeled after the discrete-trial teaching method pioneered by O. Ivar Lovaas, Ph.D. This method is empirically supported (Lovaas, 1987; McEachin, Smith & Lovaas, 1993) and has been deemed the most effective intervention for young children with autism by the United States Surgeon General (Surgeon General on Mental Health, 1999).

The Teaching Environment

A typically developing child learns through observations and interactions with the environment. A child whose development is atypical however, such as one with autism, does not learn from the environment in the same manner. Thus, the “typical” environment must be manipulated in order for learning to occur. This requires a structured teaching setting in which distractions are minimized, tasks are simplified, and regular feedback about performance is given. To accomplish this goal, treatment initially occurs in the child’s home and is then later generalized to school and community settings once the child has acquired the prerequisite skills to make these transitions successful.

Treatment Sessions

Teaching initially occurs in a one-to-one setting in the child’s home environment. During teaching, the child will work on a given task for approximately 2 to 5 minutes and then take a short break (2 to 3 minutes). Longer breaks (20 to 30 minutes) are scheduled mid- session. The average length of a treatment session is 2 to 3 hours, but parents may schedule sessions throughout the day as they wish.

How We Teach

Our treatment approach is designed to maximize the child’s success through the use of discrete trials. This approach provides the child with immediate feedback about his or her performance and allows the teacher to provide assistance (i.e. prompting) to help the child achieve mastery. The child’s behavior is “shaped” by reinforcing successive approximations of the desired response until the child is able to complete the task independently or with minimal assistance. A wide range of reinforcers (e.g., hugs, praise, bubbles, etc.) may be used during teaching, contingent upon correct responses or appropriate behavior. In order to approximate a typical teaching setting, these reinforcers are gradually faded and replaced by more naturally occurring reinforcers that the child is likely to encounter in the environment The occurrence of maladaptive or inappropriate behavior is reduced by using procedures such as extinction, redirection, differential reinforcement of other behaviors (DRO), and differential reinforcement of alternative behaviors (DRA).

What We Teach

Our program is comprehensive and tailored to meet the child’s individual needs. Programs are designed to develop the child’s skills in the following areas: language, communication, toy play, compliance, socialization, self-care, independence, academics, and physical play. We are happy to work in conjunction with speech therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and other professionals that are part of the child’s treatment team.