During this time period, some of there are many issues that a Behavioral Analyst needs to consider during this era. These issues consisted of being able to identify autism in a toddler versus an older child, determining development levels and autistic behaviors, and recognition of the impact of autism on family relationships. The needs of the parents and family should always be implemented when implementing programs for an autistic toddler. Often parents are seeking clarity of what the diagnosis means for their child and family. They need to have an opportunity to express their concerns and feelings while receiving support through the evaluation and intervention process. (Stahmer, 2012) Skills that are important to teach during this period is the skills that toddlers are displaying the most deficits in. Some of the main characteristics that differentiate autistic children at 18-36 months are deficits in eye contact, imitation, language development including nonverbal communication, pretend play, joint attention, and being able to orient to someone’s voice.
Specific areas of deficits in toddlers consist of communication, social interaction and play, cognitive skills, self-help skills, sensory integration, and problem behaviors. More structure may be needed when teaching a skill to a toddler with autism. This occurs when there are not many opportunities in the natural environment to teach the specific skill, a situation arises where a skill needs to be taught quickly, the child does not imitate or attend well, the child has difficulty transitioning, and the child responds well to structure. (Stahmer, 2012) Skills can be taught in a variety of ways. One way a skill can be taught is through speech shaping. The “very first real teaching step” in shaping speech that is utilized is contingent vocalization. Contingent vocalization teaches the power of the voice while promoting discrete sound.
Behavioral Analyst needs to pair sounds with preferred items (the preferred were currently preselected through continuous reinforcer assessments and Holly boxes) while selecting developmentally early sounds. Some of the things to consider while picking sounds are syllables that will later lead into nouns. Generic words should not be selected and one sound should not be used for multiple words. After first word is taught and mastered, select at least 9 more nouns / item labels. Therapists need to move quickly after mastery and teach discrimination.
(McGee, 2011). The Walden Model embraces incidental teaching in-context of naturally occurring situations. The Behavior Analyst arranges the environment to display stimuli that attracts children’s interest. However access to the stimuli needs to be controlled.
The Behavior Analyst can control access to the stimuli by making it visible but unreachable, accessible only through adult assistance, or even “playing dumb” when the child requests the desired item. The child’s interest initiates the teaching episode by reaching, gazing, or grabbing the desired item. The Behavioral Analyst prompts the child about their topic. The child responds with an elaboration. The Behavior Analyst then rewards the child with access to the desired item. (McGee, 2011) Learning how to learn can be implemented in 3 phases. Phase 1 encompasses noncontigent reinforcement, passive tolerance, and instrumental cause and effect. Phase 2 entails contingency, limits, compliance hierarchy, and incorporating fun into intervention.
The last and final phase 3 increases nonverbal and verbal communication through leading, reaching, demonstrating desires, and communication temptation McEachin, 2012) During this period, there were many controversial views surrounding the Eclectic approach and the Behavioral Analytic Approach. The Behavioral Analytic Approach encompassed early intervention at high intense levels. The eclectic approach was popular because is a good fit for the standard multidisciplinary education model.
It was mainly designed to suit the needs of the professionals instead of the children. It was believed that autistic children have many different needs, so they need many different individual intervention treatments. So many special education students are assigned an occupational therapist, speech pathologist, regular education teacher, special education teacher, and in some cases their own private para-professional for inclusion in classrooms. (Green, 2008) “The eclectic approach is widely available to children with autism enrolled in public early intervention and special education programs. Yet little evidence about the efficacy of that approach has appeared in the research literature to date.
” (Green, 2008) The goal of early intervention was to aid autistic children in developmentally delayed trajectory to match the typical developmental trajectory of a normal child. Autistic children always start out in the lower end of the rate of development and in majority of cases remain there. Autistic children have a developmentally delayed trajectory. Behavior Analysts use the zone of modifiability (shaded area between typical development trajectory and developmentally delayed trajectory) to work with for behavior intervention programs for autistic children. (Green, 2008) Early and Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) program is a great way to ensure that skills are taught with efficacy and efficiently. Successful implementation of an EIBI program may result in the possibility of autistic children becoming a contributing member of society, acquiring a more harmonious family life, and having a productive and happy childhood (Alai-Rosales, 2010). Behavior analysts implementing EIBI programs are required to engage in a complex series of decisions and problem solving.
In order to do this, it is imperative that they use the data of the child, consult with trained colleagues, and consult current research to assist them in making decisions. (Alai-Rosales, 2010). The data systems designed for an EIBI program should allow data to be useful at the level of procedural decision making and programmatic decision making. After one year of implementing an EIBI program, the data should indicate an effective intervention program, reveal changes that are comparable to changes recorded in EIBI literature, allows the Behavior Analyst to make decisions regarding future directions, and indicate a socially valid program. (Alai-Rosales, 2010). Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) exhibit many behaviors their family, teachers, and other supporters find challenging. But, at the same time, children with ASD often find the world at largely challenging, and the behavior of the people in it confusing. Children with autism have difficulty building friendships, maintaining relationships, engaging in group play, and communicating with peers.
(Koegel, 2001) Children with ASDs have a hard time noticing the social world and a hard time interpreting it. Early problems with gaze and joint attention, it is believed, come to impact their theory of mind. Theory of mind pertains to the understanding that other people have their own thoughts, perceptions, and intentions separate from one’s own. It is part of seeing others as separate beings with their own agendas. In order to accommodate others, to predict their future behavior, to manipulate or please them, children need to have an inbuilt capacity to guess something about who they are and what they might do or desire. Individuals with ASD lack this ability skill set drastically (Gena, 2016) Complex skills, such as imitating verbal and nonverbal behaviors, labeling objects, identifying actions and understanding abstract concepts, should be targeted first (Eikeseth, 2012). However, studies have show that it is beneficial for autistic children to have an intervention program that provides social skills. Due to the great challenges associated with developing comprehensive curricula of social skills called social skill taxonomy.
The skills addressed within social taxonomy are social awareness, social communication, social interaction, social learning, and social relatedness (Taubman, 2012) When designing an ABA treatment program for school-aged children, Behavioral Analyst should conduct 1:1 sessions of discrete trial teaching, behavior management, natural environment teaching, and incidental teaching. Depending upon the child’s needs, part of the treatment should take place in a room within the school, apart from the other children. Ideally each child should be assigned to a minimum of 2 teachers and receive 4-6 hours per week with each. When not in session, the child should be mainstreamed with the other children (Eikeseth, 2012). One recommended procedure was uncovered in a study that identified early intervention targets for children with autism in inclusive school settings.
The participants of the study included autistic children and their peers that were general education students in their class. The purpose of the study was to collect naturalistic observations and collect the data from children with autism and typically developing peers. The procedures conducted in the study consisted of 20-minute intervention sessions observed at one-hour intervals throughout the day. Measures were recorded by observers included number of social-communicative interactions, number of stimulus items engaged, and time spent appropriately engaged in tasks. The results displayed hat children with autism engaged in task appropriate behavior for about half of the observation periods while their peers were appropriately engaged most of the time. The implications of this study indicated that inclusion settings will help to increase the quality of interactions. It is suggested that ABA is effective for older learners with autism.
ABA is based on over 35 years of empirically validated and published research and encourages database decision-making and continuous assessment. It has also been used in the development of a wide variety of teaching methods beyond discrete trial teaching (DTT). In the past, the focus has been on reducing behavior rather than teaching functional behaviors. Considerations for generalization and maintenance of skill were neglected while many overly relied on punishment for behavior alternatives. The push for the movement to inclusion also increased during this period (Gernhardt, 2012). Individuals with ASD often exhibit difficulties associated with changes in routine or changes in environments, and display a need for “sameness”/predictability environmental setting. These difficulties may eventually hamper one’s independence and limit an individual’s ability to succeed in community settings.
A variety of factors related to ASD may contribute to these difficulties during transitions (Taylor, 2004). Transitional skills are specific skills that are important to teach during this period. Transitions are a large part of any school or work day, as autistic children move to different activities or locations. Studies have shown that up to 25% of a school day may be spent engaged in transition activities, such as moving from classroom to classroom, coming in from the playground, going to the cafeteria, putting personal items in designated locations like lockers or cubbies, and gathering needed materials to start working. Similar requirements for transitions are found in employment and home settings as well.
People move from one task to another, attend functions, and join others for meals and activities. The ultimate goal of transition for individuals with ASD is having a high quality of life, maintaining personal satisfaction, and having the ability to maintain an easy job. (Gernhardt, 2012). Transition strategies are techniques used to support individuals with ASD during changes in or disruptions to activities, settings, or routines. The techniques can be used before a transition occurs, during a transition, and/or after a transition, and can be presented verbally, auditory, or visually. The strategies attempt to increase predictability for individuals on the autism spectrum and to create positive routines around transitions. They are utilized across settings to support individuals with ASD.
A study was conducted on teaching teenagers with autism how to seek assistance when. In this study, there were 4 steps (transitions). The first steps were teaching the teenager to give the communication card to a familiar adult at school when they were paged. The second step entailed the teacher guiding the teenager to approach the nearest adult. On the third step, the teenager was supposed to say excuse me to the familiar adult and give them the communication card. The fourth step consisted of the teenager waiting with the adult until the known adult appeared.
The data collected from this study suggested that upon receiving the vibrating signal, each participant learned to approach an unfamiliar adult, say “say excuse me”, give the communication card and wait for a familiar adult.” (Taylor, 2004)