Faculty Articles

Working Intensively With a Young Child with Autism Using Applied Behaviour Analysis Methodology

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Good Autism Practice





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This paper describes the work of a team of psychology undergraduates trained and supervised by an experienced clinical psychologist. They worked intensively with a young child with autism over a ten-week period using an applied behaviour analysis (ABA) approach. Results were graphed to record progress. Changes in behaviours not specifically taught, such as orientation, aggression and disruption were monitored during the programme. Significant gains were reported in all the skills that were specifically taught. Orientation increased significantly during many programmes, the greatest gains being made during imitation programmes. Aggressive and disruptive behaviour decreased significantly during the programme too. The results are discussed in terms of practical applications for clinicians. There are many interventions recommended for young children with autism in the early years and evaluating their effectiveness is complex because children with autism often differ significantly from each other and an individual child often has a number of different inputs during the course of a day or week (as in this study where Rachel has a highly structured ABAbased programme, play sessions, interactive sessions with her parents and attends a playgroup). Separating out the effects of these in addition to the effects of maturation is very difficult. The language used to describe skills and behaviours is often different too across interventions which can make comparisons between studies difficult. Nevertheless, it is important to describe and record the actions taken by adults and the responses of the children engaged in interventions in a systematic way, as this paper does, in order to develop our evaluation methods and encourage debate about practice. This paper will inspire such discussion.

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