On this page:
More information about behavioral intervention:
What is ABA? with links to similar pages
Frequently asked questions about ABA and autism
How can I get help for my child? is a "form letter" about accessing special education services
Educational program resources - books, videos, teaching materials, software, Web sites
Autism "one Dad's view"
A failure of special education is a story that will be familiar to some, cautionary to others
Parents' and professionals' experiences stories and letters
Giving - support autism and special education organizations
Autism and ABA surveys and research - contribute your experiences
Teaching and Learning - brief notes on factors that affect how quickly our kids learn
Editorials - published letters, broadcast editorial replies, and public testimony
Training, Education, and Employment - schools, on-line courses, professional employment
Why use ABA - scientific research and personal experiences
Principles of ABA - learn how it works
Special education - know the law and make it stick
What is this Web site all about?
My son has autism. This is a collection of Internet and other resources which parents of children with PDD, PDD-NOS, autism, Asperger's Syndrome, or hyperlexia may find useful. All the information concerns teaching methods that are a branch of applied behavior analysis (ABA) called behavioral intervention. One of the methods is discrete trial training. Some (inaccurately) use the term "Lovaas method."
We worked hard to get complete information, implement a program, and have our school system pay for it. My hope is to help spare other parents (and their children) some of the pain and wasted time we went through, and to provide resources for professionals who are passionate about special education. Here is what I've learned.
If you don't find the
information you need here, I will try to help you find resources.
I cannot give specific advice about your child's behavior or education.
If you write, please tell me where you live.
When choosing a program for your child, look from results backward, not theory forward. Start by understanding what works for others and what might work for your child. See also What is ABA?
When I started this site in 1997 there were perhaps a dozen schools in the world using behavioral intervention for autism. Now there are hundreds, many of them started by parents. Because it works, people have written books, published articles, and created Web sites.
See also my compilation of parents' experiences.
The first research on intensive behavioral intervention for early childhood autism started in the early 1980s; the first study showing its full effectiveness was published in 1987.
While researchers had initially hoped for substantial progress, what they achieved was remarkable: by early elementary school, a substantial fraction of children no longer needed any special assistance. Those results continue to be duplicated a generation later.
Read more accounts of the effectiveness of behavioral intervention, and watch videos of ABA therapy on YouTube.
Read why some have decided not to use ABA and be sure you have settled your own questions before deciding what to do with your own child.
Service providers, schools, and other families and support groups
Whether you set up an educational program in your home or send your child to a public or private shool, you will want to know where to find support and professional resources.
The ABA service providers page lists individuals and agencies who can help you plan and run a behavioral intervention progam. Before you commit to any plan, please make sure you know the service provider's qualifications.
Most parents want a school that makes the best possible use of their child's time, and provides training and support to help their family life. Start with the listing of schools claiming to use ABA as a primary intervention, and also talk with other local families who have investigated the same options.
It can make a critical difference to find a local family to help you through the many difficult times. See also the international section, and the parents' stories - you are neither the first nor the last in this situation.
If you are lucky, there will be an organized support group that will help you find local families and other useful resources.
You don't have to be an expert, but it helps to know the basic principles. This doesn't mean you will do it all yourself! I strongly recommend finding a qualified professional to supervise your child's educational program.
See also the "how to" resource listings for more detailed information on educational programming. The training and careers page lists degree programs, training programs, and on-line and distance learning programs.
Get professional input - always helpful, and necessary if you use special education services
A complete developmental evaluation is essential if you suspect your child has autism or a related disorder. You may get a diagnosis, and more important, recommendations for intervention. If the evaluator indicates an ABA program is appropriate, that opinion may be critical to your child's future. Waiting lists for professionals can be very long, so make an appointment right away!
Plan a quality intervention program - worth learning about even if you find a school that does it all.
The listing of books and other information on ABA has books for parents who just need to know the basics, as well as textbooks used by professionals.
The early stages of an ABA program frequently focus on spoken language development.
Developing social and play skills is a constant priority. It's not just fun and games; learning by interacting with other people is actually more important than classroom learning.
Reading, writing, arithmetic...until your child is ready to learn in a class, here are some ways to develop those skills using ABA.
While as much as possible the emphasis is on skill development, it's important to know how to deal with unwanted behaviors that interfere with progress or may even be dangerous to your child's health.
Adequate time for physical play is essential to anybody's well-being. Here are some listings of recreational opportunities adapted to those with special needs.
Flashcards, workbooks, laminated pictures, software to organize your curriculum...all the props and aids you might need to run an educational program. Many of the businesses listed have been started by the Mom or Dad of a child on the autism spectrum.
Conferences and meetings devoted to behavioral intervention for autism; see what the experts are learning.
Getting services is usually the hardest part. We in the US may argue forever about universal health care, but this is one disorder for which universal, free coverage is mandated - in theory.
If all this is new to you, or you feel like you are drowning in options, and you really want to know where to start, please look at my "form letter" to parents - How do I get services for my child?
Listings of educational advocates and special education attorneys: an advocate helps you make the most efficient use of the special education process (get it right the first time!); an attorney represents your child in a legal dispute with your school system or early intervention administration.
If the services offered by your school system are not adequate to get your child the services he needs, it may be possible to receive funding from private or public health insurance.
You ar never alone: network with local parents. Special education advocates and attorneys are another great source of information about which districts to seek and which to avoid. Many families move to get even minimal services, but you don't want to do this more than once!
US law gives all children, regardless of their disability, the right to a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. Many other countries have similar laws. Services may start well before your child reaches school age, and continue as needed until age 22.
Unless you plan no paying for everything yourself, it is essential that you know what the law really says about special education. Here are a number of parent-friendly books and Web sites to teach you how to enforce your child's rights and help secure him the best future possible. ABA legal briefs summarizes selected special education court cases.
Start with listings of special education attorneys and advocates. Don't be shy! Ask your elected representatives to help you find resources or overcome bureaucratic obstacles - they are supposed to work for you.
Some service providers will supply teaching staff, but recruiting, training, supervising, and retaining qualified staff is a job unto itself. If you are doing any teaching hours at home, here are some suggestions and resources for locating staff and running a home-based program.
Information on ABA in as many different languages as I can find.
My Web site focuses only on behavioral intervention. Here are just a few good starting places to find more general autism resources.
We first brought our concerns to the attention of a pediatrician at age 1-1/2. From that point it was three years before we started an effective therapy program. The pediatrician's attitude was "wait and see"; from age 3, the Brookline/Newton school administration attitude was "we're giving him everything he needs, trust us and be grateful." Both attitudes were a disaster for our child. Research shows that children with developmental disorders can be substantially helped by early, intensive intervention, yet the school's response to what I consider a medical emergency was two sessions of group "speech therapy" a week! It took "intensive legal intervention" to change that situation.
Our son, fortunately, is a learner - he knew the alphabet by age two, and could add double digit numbers at age five. He is also quite disabled and needed intensive one-on-one teaching to learn language, play, and social skills. But learn he did - after the first 1,000 hours of behavioral intervention he was able to make up stories, play for prolonged periods with his younger sister, spontaneously talk to friends and strangers, and successfully attend a public Kindergarten.
I have talked and written to a lot of other parents. All are committed to helping their children, but many are uncertain, uninformed, or have misconceptions about ABA or their child's potential for progress. I have made up what I call (for lack of a better term) "Richard's Rule" for recovery (making significant progress). Draw a graph with "Degree of disability" along the bottom and "Total progress" along the side. Then draw an arch. On the right hand side are the profoundly disabled, who may make little progress despite their parents' exhaustive efforts. In the middle are those children with moderate to severe disability, who exhibit strong early symptoms. Because they often get timely diagnoses and early intervention, they may make the most progress towards their maximum potential.
On the left hand side are children like my son, who may be well behind in language and play skills but are quite intelligent, able to communicate their needs, and well-related to their parents. Unfortunately their strengths can be their undoing, as they are the least likely to get early diagnoses and maximally effective intervention. Although some children do make substantial progress without intensive early intervention, they may still suffer years of needless disability.
Please don't underestimate:
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