Being a parent of a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) presents many challenges. Upon initial diagnosis, a parent may experience guilt, anxiety and even fear. As parents, we all want the best for our children. Learning that our child has Autism can be confusing and cause anxiety about how we are to help our child be the best they can be, especially if we have no experience or knowledge about Autism.
There is no cure or medication for Autism. The child does not “grow out of it” as Autism is a brain abnormality. There are challenges around what the best course of therapy will be. Researching what Autism is and how to best serve your child is an important first step. Early diagnosis and therapy are crucial to helping your child thrive and live a fulfilling life. If left undiagnosed and without appropriate treatment, Autism symptoms can result in the child being incapable of maintaining relationships, keep a job or live independently.
One of the best and most effective therapies for children with Autism is ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy. An article by Hagopian and Boelter (2012) investigated the scientific support for ABA. The following organizations have classified ABA therapy to be a highly effective treatment for individuals with Autism:
- American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
- National Institute of Mental Health
- Association for Science in Autism Treatment
- Autism Speaks
- Organization for Autism Research
ABA therapy accounts for 45% of therapies that develop long-lasting and observable results according to the Surgeon General’s Autism treatment report.
So, what is ABA therapy? ABA is based on the science of behavior and learning. When properly administered, it has measurable data-driven results, and is evidenced based. Board Certified Behavioral Analysists (BCBAs) will observe and test each child to determine their age appropriate, developmental skills, and where the child is on the spectrum range. Once that is determined, an individualized program is created for the child. The program is flexible and revised often to accommodate the progress the child is making. Parents and caretakers are also included in the plan so therapy can be continued at home for effective program results.
Studies have shown that approximately 50% of children with Autism who undergo ABA services before the age of four show a significant increase in IQ, verbal skills, and social functioning. After four years of in-depth behavioral treatment for children averaging 34 months old, Sallows and Graupner (2005) found that 48% of participants showed rapid learning, achieved average post-treatment scores, and were succeeding in regular education classrooms.
The cornerstone of ABA therapy is a strategy that utilizes positive reinforcement. As learning and behavior milestones are achieved, they are followed by something that is of value to the child. Learning becomes fun, as it should be, and the child is more likely to want to achieve more.
Success on the Spectrum (SOS) utilizes a Play-based therapy program. Walk into any SOS clinic and you will see and hear children and therapists alike engaged in fun leaning. There are lots of high-fives, dancing and cheering going on every single day. Children learn how to get the most out of their individualized play-based learning programs. The goal is to allow the child to flourish in their environment while at the same time learning essential skills to get them to the life they hope to live.
SOS partners with parents and child to allow each child to be the individual they hope to become and to live the life of their choosing.