What is Autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a serious developmental disability that affects a child’s ability to communicate, form relationships with others, and to respond appropriately to his or her surroundings. The characteristics of ASD typically appear before age 3, but can sometimes be detected by 18 months or younger. The disorder occurs approximately five times more often in boys than girls.

Once believed to be extremely rare, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that as many as 1 in 68 individuals in the United States may have the disorder. More alarming, however, is that New Jersey has the highest prevalence of ASD of any state in the country, with about 1 of 45 children (1 in 28 boys) being diagnosed.

For many years it was mistakenly believed that autism was caused by emotionally cold parenting. We now know that the cause is most likely genetic in nature (although research continues to search for possible as-yet-undiscovered environmental triggers). To date, studies continue to show that vaccines are not associated with ASD.

Studies have shown that the earlier autism is detected and treatment is begun, the better the overall outlook for the individual.

For more information about causes, risk factors, and symptoms of ASD, click here to go to the CDC website.

What is ABA?

Applied Behavior Analysis: A scientific approach to understanding why people do what they do and helping them to make meaningful changes in their lives!

When a child receives a diagnosis of ASD, parents need to have access to accurate information as they encounter the many “therapies” available for treatment. There are over 40 years of well-designed, peer-reviewed research studies demonstrating the effectiveness of a science-based approach known as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

Studies on ABA and autism have shown major gains in social, communication, self-care, leisure, and academic skills, as well as a reduction in non-functional behaviors. A number of research studies have shown that as much as 50% of children enrolled in a well-designed and intensive ABA program may learn to such an extent that they no longer meet the formal diagnosis of autism. ABA is tailored to the specific needs of each child and is delivered in a consistent, comprehensive, and coordinated manner. Children learn to play, develop relationships, and learn new skills in a warm, engaging environment.

Trained practitioners of ABA, many of whom are nationally credentialed as Board Certified Behavior Analysts™ (BCBA), carefully define, observe, and record information about what children can and cannot do to determine appropriate instructional goals. Skills to be learned are broken down into smaller, more easily learned components. Frequent feedback is given to provide each child with information about his or her progress. Observations of each child’s progress are used to track the effectiveness of the teaching techniques used and the progress made. Parents are part of the intervention team and are taught how to use teaching techniques at home.

Practitioners of ABA use a wide variety of evidenced-based instructional strategies including small group instruction, peer-mediated social skills training, verbal behavior interventions, play interventions, naturalistic teaching, video modeling, activity schedules, discrimination training, motivational systems, self-management strategies, and discrete trial instruction, among others, to achieve goals for learning.