Search This Blog

Monday, October 5, 2015

ABA Program in Michigan

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss applied behavior analysis.

AP reports on  Michigan State University's Child Development Laboratories.
As lawmakers carve out greater medical coverage for autism therapy, the institute was set in motion to fill in gaps in education and therapy before a child is expected to sit in a kindergarten classroom.
All of the program's behavior technicians are trained to interact using applied behavior analysis, or ABA, said Kate LaLonde, the institute's clinical director. In practical terms, ABA amounts to rewarding and encouraging positive behaviors and discouraging negative patterns.
But rather than have a few hours of ABA each day like other programs she looked into, the institute is implementing the strategy from the moment students arrive in the morning until they are picked up in the afternoon. Parents also receive information about ABA in order to continue the therapy at home, she said.
"Research shows applied behavior analysis is one of the best treatments for people on the autism spectrum," LaLonde said. Students also receive socialization prior to entering kindergarten, both with fellow institute students and with other children in the development lab.
Aside from constant activity and monitoring, LaLonde said children on the autism spectrum have their own unique challenges parents and educators need to understand. One of the most recognizable is a lack of requests or questions.
"While other kids their age might ask hundreds of questions in three hours, our technicians often won't get a single question or request over the same period of time," she said. Making children request, rather than responding to their tantrums, is one of the first things behavior technicians do, LaLonde said.
Other seemingly minute differences between the MSU program and others are making big differences, said Laurie Linscott, who co-developed the program with behavior analyst Joshua Plavnick.
Rather than having technicians sit between students to assist them, Linscott encourages staff to sit further back. This allows children to not only interact with their peers more readily, but helps them be less reliant on the adults in the room and to concentrate on the teacher in front of them, she said.