The most likely candidates are undergraduate students, especially psychology or education majors, who are interested in this type of experience. In addition, students are usually flexible in scheduling hours.
Many families have recruited students by posting flyers in the departments of Psychology, Speech-Language Pathology, and Education of nearby colleges or by contacting a professor who may be interested in making an announcement in his/her class about your child's home-based early intervention program. Career and placement centers located on campuses may post your ad as well.
An applicant does not need to have special credentials or previous experience to become a good instructor. We believe that the procedures we employ can be mastered by most people. Some important characteristics to look for when recruiting staff are dependability, enthusiasm, and a willingness to learn.
Training and program development occur during an initial consultation and continue over follow-up consultations.
During a 2- to 3-day initial consultation, your behavior/program consultant will travel to your home and teach you and your instructors how to begin your child's treatment. The consultation will provide you with instruction on teaching procedures, what to teach, when to teach, how to keep records, how to supervise your staff, and how to analyze problems in your child's learning. The majority of the time will be spent working directly with your child. Initially the behavior consultant will model teaching procedures for you and your staff working directly with your child, and then help you practice these procedures through role-playing and directly with your child.
Follow-up consultations are conducted on a regular basis, typically every 4-6 weeks. In order to maintain the highest quality of treatment, the recommended length for follow-up consultations is typically 6 hours (1 full day). During these follow-ups, your consultant will re-evaluate your child's program, design new goals, discuss and rectify problems, and conduct further training of parents and staff. Phone consultations, video consultations, email consultations, and additional reports are also available when necessary.
The intervention initially takes place within the home, a child's primary place for learning.
As a child progresses, the teaching procedures become less structured and are generalized to the child's school and everyday environment. Play areas, stores, restaurants, and other places in the neighborhood that facilitate the child's integration among typically developing children are utilized. The consultant works with the parents and IEP team to identify a community program, school and/or classroom, regular education or special education, based on a child's current skills and needs. A trained 1:1 aide facilitates this transition and is faded when possible.
The Lovaas Institute has always relied on norm-referenced tests, parent interviews, and ongoing evaluation of a child's skills for assessment.
Norm-referenced tests allow for unbiased, independent evaluation of a child's progress that can be compared to typically developing peers. Parent interviews allow for issues such as a family's culture and daily routines to be taken into account when developing behavioral treatment for a specific child. And finally, the Lovaas Model uses a flowcharting technique to guide a child's behavioral treatment.
Each child with autism is remarkably different in many ways. As a result, individualization of the program is a priority at intake and daily throughout the program in order to make maximal progress and avoid serious sidetracking.
Consultation services are designed to help families set up their own intervention programs, modeled after the clinic-based program.
In brief, the intervention is based on shaping behavior through reinforcement of successive approximations, prompting and fading procedures, and use of positive reinforcers that are child-specific and functional (i.e., serve the intent of increasing behavior). Examples of such reinforcers are small bites of food, playing with a favorite toy, looking at a favorite book, and social rewards such as verbal praise, tickles, hugs, and "rides through the air."
As intervention progresses, reinforcement is expanded, whenever possible, to include more natural and social reinforcers. The intervention is structured so that appropriate behaviors are maximized through prompting and positive reinforcement. Inappropriate behaviors are reduced by teaching alternate, more socially acceptable forms of communicating the same needs.
In the consultation service model, the Lovaas Institute provides the behavior/program consultant who designs a program and trains instructors hired by the parent. The majority of teaching is done in a child's home by a team of 3-5 instructors.
We recommend that each instructor work 6-12 hours per week, enough to become comfortable with your child while not spending so much time that your child becomes dependent on one instructor. Parents often act as one of the instructors, at least during the first six months of treatment, and also carry treatment over to other teachable moments throughout the day.
All members of the team are supervised by the behavior/program consultant as well as quality control personnel at the Lovaas Institute.