What is Autism?

Helping Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder Thrive Through ABA Therapy

What is Autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental condition that affects how children communicate, interact socially, and exhibit certain behaviors. While each child experiences ASD differently, early intervention with applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy can make a world of difference. 

Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorder is typically diagnosed in early childhood and symptoms can range from mild to severe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 44 children has been identified with ASD.

Some key characteristics of ASD include:

– Difficulty with social communication and interaction

– Restricted interests and repetitive behaviors  

– Symptoms that hurt functioning and cause impairment

ASD is called a spectrum disorder because no two children experience it exactly the same way. Some children may have mild symptoms while others have more severe ones that lead to greater impairments. 

Common Signs and Symptoms of ASD

While symptoms differ for every child, some common signs to look out for include:

– Not responding to their name by 12 months

– Not pointing at objects to show interest by 14 months  

– No babbling by 12 months

– No single words by 16 months 

– Poor eye contact

– Lack of facial expressions 

– Excessive lining up of toys or objects 

– Unusual attachment to objects

– Hyper- or hypo-reactivity to sensory input

– Repetitive motor movements like flapping hands, rocking, or spinning

Some children show symptoms as early as 12 months, but most cases are diagnosed by age 2-3 years. Early screening and diagnosis are so important, as early intervention can greatly improve outcomes.

Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder 

There is no medical test for ASD. Doctors and specialists diagnose ASD based on direct observation of the child’s communication, behavior, and development. 

Some of the tools used in diagnosis include:

– Developmental screening tests – These test a child’s development compared to same-aged peers.

– Autism-specific screening tests – These screening tools ask questions about a child’s specific ASD-related behaviors.

– Comprehensive diagnostic evaluation – Conducted by a team of doctors and specialists that looks at the child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis.

– Observation – Monitoring a child’s interactions and development across multiple settings.

– Hearing and vision tests – To rule out hearing or vision issues impacting development.

Getting evaluated as soon as possible after initial concern can lead to earlier treatment. While ASD is usually a lifelong disorder, early intervention can improve outcomes and help children develop to their fullest potential.

ABA Therapy Helps Children with Autism Thrive

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy is the gold standard treatment for autism spectrum disorder. When started early, ABA can help children with ASD master important skills, create connections, and function more independently.

What is ABA Therapy?

ABA therapy utilizes the principles of learning and motivation to bring about positive change. Key features include:

– Breaking down skills into small, achievable goals

– Using positive reinforcement strategies to teach and reward desired behaviors

– Discouraging problematic behaviors using gentle redirection  

– Constant evaluation and tracking of progress

– Customizing the therapy to each child’s unique needs

– Training parents and caregivers to use ABA strategies

The structured, customized nature of ABA therapy promotes skill-building across all developmental domains:

– Communication

– Social skills

– Academics

– Self-care 

– Adaptive behaviors

ABA therapists also collaborate regularly with parents and other providers like speech therapists to ensure consistency.

ABA Therapy Techniques

Certified ABA therapists use a variety of techniques to promote learning and positive behaviors while decreasing problematic ones. Some of the most common techniques include:

Discrete Trial Training – Teaching skills in a structured, systematic manner with lots of repetition. Each trial has an antecedent, behavior, and consequence.

Natural Environment Training – Teaching skills in the natural context where they would occur. For example, teaching social skills on a playground.

Incidental Teaching – Teaching skills throughout the day as opportunities arise.

Task Analysis – Breaking down larger skills into small, manageable steps. Then teaching those steps individually.

Prompting – Providing cues to help guide successful responses. Prompts are gradually reduced as the skill is mastered.

Shaping – Reinforcing successive approximations toward a target behavior.

Chaining – Linking mastered behaviors together to enable a larger skill.

Discrete Trial Training – Teaching skills in a structured, systematic manner with lots of repetition. Each trial has an antecedent, behavior, and consequence.

Differential Reinforcement – Reinforcing alternative, positive behaviors while withholding reinforcement for problematic behaviors.

Functional Behavior Assessments – Systematically determining the reason behind a problematic behavior in order to address it. 

ABA therapists individualize these techniques based on each child’s unique needs and strengths.

The Benefits of Starting ABA Therapy Early 

ABA therapy produces the best results when started early, ideally as soon as possible after diagnosis. According to research:

– Early intensive ABA therapy leads to significant gains in IQ, language, academics, and adaptive skills.

– The earlier the start, the better the outcomes. Children who begin ABA before age 4 have better long-term prognosis. 

– Early ABA therapy can help close the gap between children with ASD and typical developmental milestones.

– ABA can be provided from as young as 18 months to adulthood. But starting early amplifies benefits.

While ABA therapy is a long-term commitment, it pays off by equipping children with ASD with essential skills for life. After an initial intensive period, therapy shifts into maintenance mode as children integrate learned skills into everyday life.

Signs Your Child May Benefit from ABA Therapy

If your child displays some of these signs, ABA therapy may help:

– Has difficulty learning through traditional teaching methods

– Struggles to pay attention and engage during learning opportunities

– Has intense, narrow interests

– Gets upset by changes in routine or environment 

– Has trouble communicating needs, wants and ideas

– Displays aggressive or self-injurious behaviors

– Seems withdrawn or uninterested in social interactions

– Has sensory sensitivities that disrupt functioning  

– Is falling behind typical developmental milestones

The earlier you intervene with ABA therapy, the more progress your child can make. Even children who exhibit just a few red flags can benefit immensely from ABA.

Jade ABA Provides World-Class ABA Therapy for Maryland Families

At Jade ABA, we believe every child with autism deserves the benefits of high-quality ABA therapy. Our passionate team of Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) and therapists are deeply committed to helping your child reach their full potential.

We take pride in providing truly individualized ABA therapy tailored to each child’s unique needs, challenges, interests and strengths. No two children are alike, so we create fully customized therapy programs using evidence-based techniques proven to work.

In addition to working directly with your child, we’ll coach you through using ABA strategies at home to promote consistency and generalization of skills. We partner with you and your child every step of the way, tracking progress and updating goals as needed.

Don’t wait to get started with in-home ABA therapy that can help your child thrive. We serve families across Maryland and are confident we can partner with you to help your child succeed. Contact us today at (410) 616-0901 or email at info@jadeaba.org to learn more!

References

[1] Lord, C., Elsabbagh, M., Baird, G., & Veenstra-Vanderweele, J. (2018). Autism spectrum disorder. The Lancet, 392(10146), 508-520. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31129-2

[2] Landa, R. J. (2018). Efficacy of early interventions for infants and young children with, and at risk for, autism spectrum disorders. International review of psychiatry (Abingdon, England), 30(1), 25–39. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540261.2018.1432574 

[3] Makrygianni, M. K., Gena, A., Katoudi, S., & Galanis, P. (2018). The Effectiveness of Applied Behavior Analytic Interventions for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Meta-Analytic Study. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 51, 18-31. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rasd.2018.03.006

[4] Rogers, S. J., & Vismara, L. A. (2008). Evidence-based comprehensive treatments for early autism. Journal of clinical child and adolescent psychology : the official journal for the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, American Psychological Association, Division 53, 37(1), 8–38. https://doi.org/10.1080/15374410701817808

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