I had the pleasure of presenting at the ABA conference in San Diego with Dr. Ivar Lovaas and Dr. Scott Cross on peer play dates over Memorial Day weekend. Linda Wright and others from the Lovaas Institute attended as well. It's been just over 20 years since Dr. Lovaas published his landmark research in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, just over 40 years since he began looking for answers for children with autism. I don't know what the next 20 years will bring, but the amount of effort and attention given to autism in the field of behavior analysis - from social concerns to academic concerns, from procedural techniques to ethical questions - makes me confident that the lives of many people will continue to be affected in positive ways, no matter what their age. I hope this newsletter continues to be a source of insight and inspiration for you. I look forward to continuing our discussion next month.
Vincent J. LaMarca
(not part of Lovaas Institute)
While the causes of autism remain unknown, researchers at UC Davis are looking for answers. MARBLES (Markers for Autism Risk in Babies—Learning Early Signs) is a study designed to follow at-risk pregnant women through pregnancy and through their infant's 3rd birthday.
Research conducted as part of the UCLA Young Autism Project (Lovaas, 1987) focused on treatment for "younger" children under the age of 4 years. Treatment for children with autism often lasts longer than a few years, and oftentimes programming and intervention goals change as the children grow older. How can we teach and prepare older children to be successful in school, home, and community settings?
Because autism is a spectrum disorder, the amount of preparation necessary for the transition from elementary school to middle school varies from child to child. Here is an example of one transition plan that helped one child successfully transition into middle school.
While much attention has been paid to the young children who made phenomenal progress in early, intensive behavioral treatment, such research does not exhaust the benefits of behavioral treatment. Therapy utilizing applied behavior analysis is primarily meant to improve the quality of life of an individual with autism.
"Amy always disliked fine motor tasks, such as buttoning, snapping, and tying her shoes, even though it was something she could do. After an instruction, verbal prompt, and model prompt, Amy was still protesting about tying her shoes. When the instructor provided a physical prompt, Amy got mad and said, "I thought the point of America was independence!"
"One of the most beautiful events we've had at church this year was a special penance mass for the special needs children only. In preparation for this mass, the kids were shown a visual selection of pictures that they could choose and then discuss with the priest when it was their turn. When Ella approached Father David, the one thing she kept repeating was she wanted God to help her make better dragons! (She has had a fascination with drawing and constructing dragons since seeing the Eragon movie.)"
"During an overlap session with myself, a male instructor, and a female senior instructor, we were working on teaching Matthew to play Simon Says. He had just caught on to the difficult notion NOT to move unless the words "Simon Says" were included, and then eagerly took a turn as Simon. He included the words "Simon says" in each of his directions, randomly choosing body parts. We were just about to prompt him to NOT say "Simon says" when my senior instructor lost...Matthew had casually included an anatomically correct body part that only one of us possessed."
The names of all children in this newsletter have been changed in respect for family confidentiality.
Hand Grenade! Deliver reinforcers like a hand grenade. Instead of giving an M&M, pretend to send it through the air with a whistling sound until it gets to child's mouth then explodes (i.e. you make an exploding sound). Run from the child and toss the (soft) reinforcer back to them.
Reinforcer Presents! Wrap the reinforcer like a real present. Sustain the anticipation by gradually unwrapping across many trials.
When I first heard about ABA and what a home therapy program entailed, my thought was I certainly don't want to be doing this when Charlie is five years old. That was the summer of 1999 and Charlie, who had just turned two years old, had just been diagnosed with autism.