Meeting Point: Latest From Lovaas

May 07

Meeting Point: Latest From Lovaas

Knowledge vs. Training

As research proving the effectiveness of behavioral treatment grows, more and more people have started to say that they have received "training in ABA therapy." Further, some individuals will state on their website that they are "Lovaas trained." Anyone making these claims should be scrutinized closely. First, sometimes the "training" that some people receive only extends to attendance at a few conferences. Research has shown that training for skills such as implementing ABA procedures cannot be accomplished through a talk anymore than training to play the guitar can be learned through listening to someone talk about how to play a guitar, watching videos on how to play a guitar, or role-playing with an inflatable guitar. Training in ABA procedures involves real practice with a particular individual and immediate feedback, neither of which is within the scope of a few presentations. Second, those who claim to be "Lovaas trained" may have only taken an undergraduate course with Dr. Lovaas or spent a few months at the Institute.

Currently, one of the few ways to maintain "Lovaas training" is as a current employee at the Lovaas Institute. Those who implement the Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis must learn a skill rather than just a gain a set of knowledge. In terms of our current training protocol, the Lovaas Institute uses a pyramid training approach that has a lengthy and well-regarded history in the field of community psychology. There are five basic levels of training at the Lovaas Institute. Employees first have the opportunity to receive certification in: 1) learning basic therapy techniques, 2) implementing dynamic therapy, 3) collecting and summarizing data, and 4) training other employees. Two of these four certification levels (implementing dynamic therapy and training other employees) are each broken into 4 modules. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, employees must have experience working with a child with autism at specific developmental levels in order to complete a module for certification. In all, it typically takes a minimum of two and a half years before someone reaches a fifth level of certification in which they begin to learn to design programs for other children under close supervision of trained professionals at the Institute. The fifth level of certification has its own set of performance-based objectives and requires another year of training and oversight to complete.

The Autism Special Interest Group from the Association of Behavior Analysis created a document in 2004 entitled "Revised Guidelines for Consumers of Applied Behavior Analysis Services to Individuals with Autism and Related Disorders" found at http://www.abainternational.org/sub/membersvcs/sig/contactinfo/Autism.asp which also shows the breadth of both knowledge and experience needed to competently implement behavioral therapy. The point is clear. Quality behavioral therapy is not only about what one knows, it's also about what one can actually do.

The names of all children in this newsletter have been changed in respect for family confidentiality.

From the Editor

Thanks to all of those who have written to us in the past few months. This newsletter has been a constant balancing act. On one hand, we want to provide a newsletter that's accessible enough to those with only a little understanding of behavioral treatment. On the other hand, we want the information to be clinically and professionally rigorous.

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On the Lighter Side...
...5 outrageous reinforcers sure to add fun in therapy

Wake Up! Fall asleep and snore loudly on the child's lap. Then wake up suddenly for the school bell — "ding ding ding!"

Keep My Arms Down! Put one of your arms out and when the child pushes it down, make a cranking sound, and raise the opposite one up. When the child tries to hold both down, raise a foot.

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Searching for Answers
Part 4 of a 4-part series

Because of Bronwyn's participation in behavioral treatment, her family has found many milestones to celebrate. Her mother states, "Of course the amount of talking she is doing is one milestone we've celebrated. We hang on every word she says."

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