Applied Behavior Analysis
What is ABA? It is the use of laboratory- and application-tested learning principles to teach important academic, social, and life skills. Basically, when important behavior is not learned naturally, the needed skill is broken down into manageable steps, taught using highly motivating methods, then reassembled so it is functional and useful.
Is ABA proven? This is important for comparing ABA with other interventions. ABA is not an untested method being promoted and sold in advance of scientific validation. ABA is based on literally tens of thousands of scientific studies on the basic principles of behavior going back over 100 years, thousands of studies on the application of behavioral principles going back over 75 years, and many hundreds on specific techniques spanning at least half-a-century. One thing most psychologists agree on is that the behavior analysts have been among the most scientific members of their field.
Does ABA with autism involve mindlessly repeated trials using M&Ms as rewards? Not at all. ABA uses the most effective rewards, chosen specifically for the person and situation, and does not waste time teaching things that have already been successfully learned. Sure, candy will work to motivate and teach,and may be useful occasionally. Sometimes a skill is repeated for practice. But, we are deeply interested in helping the individual acquire genuine skills that are the foundation for more complex, real-life behavior. Thus, the main rewards will be social and the skills will be relevant.
Parents accused of rape and abuse via the discredited method, Facilitated Communication receive a $1.1 million settlement from Walled Lake Schools.
These large monetary settlements, and the protracted legal entanglement they involve, ought to be a warning to schools and treatment centers considering the use of dangerous and discredited treatments for autism such as Facilitated Communication (e.g., New pilot program using technology to help Md. students with autism to communicate).
"We need to remind those outside our field that ABA is far more than a teacher sitting knee-to-knee with a student endlessly repeating discrete trials."
Vincent Strully, Director of the New England Center for Children
What is Facilitated Communication?
Facilitated Communication (FC), sometimes also called "Supported Typing," is a set of methods by which selection-, pointing-, or writing-based communication in one individual is simulated by another person who provides physical, gestural, or other cues for the selections. In most FC, the hand or arm of the individual is held and moved. But, in some forms, the facilitator holds the communication output device or provides non-physical cues. FC is not supported by scientific evidence. In fact, FC is the single most scientifically discredited intervention in developmental disabilities.
In the final days of the 2013-2014 session, the Michigan legislature passed a bill authorizing $5.5 million in expenditure for "university programs and autism family assistance." The bill passed the House 88 to 21, and unanimously in the Senate. You can read the bill and get background information here.
"The efforts funded by the new state money will move forward under the direction of Dr. Stephanie Peterson, chair of the Western Michigan University Department of Psychology, and Dr. Wayne Fuqua, professor of psychology, whose longtime focus has been on the use of behavior analysis for the treatment of autism."
The Western Michigan University Autism Center for Excellence announces the availability of a series of video interviews with experts in applied behavior analysis, autism and behavioral pediatrics. See the text of the press release here.
These videos feature presentations and interviews with experts in applied behavior analysis and behavioral pediatrics. In many cases, the videos also include supplemental materials and clinical simulations that demonstrate the application of essential features of an assessment or intervention technique. These videos are designed to enhance the ability of applied behavior analysis practitioners.
Michigan Autism Insurance Bills
SB 414 and 415 establish requirements for insurance coverage of certain kinds of autism treatment. SB 981 establishes a funding stream.
These links provide the entire history of each bill. The "Public Act" is final enacted version of each bill.
"several studies have found that there is increased surveillance for autism, a broadening of the diagnostic criteria, and an increased willingness to seek out and accept the diagnosis by parents and educators. Further, when you control for these variables, the adjusted autism prevalence is stable over time."
The International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC) and the journal Augmentative and Alternative Communication have made the following ISAAC Materials open access in order to increase dissemination of the materials on 'authorship' and Facilitated Communication (FC).
Behavior Analysis Association of Michigan, Department of Psychology, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI 48197