According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder in the US currently stands at 1 in every 68 births. In addition, the rate of diagnosing autism disorder in children grew by 6 to 15% from 2002 to 2010. These numbers are significant because autism causes a wide range of communication, behavior, and social interaction problems during childhood, as well as throughout adulthood. Fortunately, Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBAs) can help improve the lives of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Here is some more information about BCaBAs:
An Overview of BCaBAs
Behavior analysts are individuals who undergo extensive training in a medical sub-field called behavior analysis, which specializes in using scientific methodologies and techniques to understand, as well as influence human behavior. This extensive training equips behavior analysts with the skills they need to improve the quality of life of patients suffering from autism spectrum disorder. After completing training and acquiring the relevant certifications, BCaBAs can seek employment in various institutions including learning institutions, facilities that offer children’s services, mental health facilities or institutions that undertake behavioral medicine research. Overall, given the increasing prevalence of autism spectrum disorder in young children, the demand for these professionals is high.
Working with Autistic Children
The unique skill set and knowledge that BCaBAs acquire during training makes them the ideal candidates for working with children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. According to a paper published by the Autism Special Interest Group (SIG) of the Association for Behavior Analysis, research has shown that behavior analysis methods are quite effective in treating individuals with autism. Examples of behavior analysis methods include the Dall’Alba and Sandberg Model and the Novice to Expert Model. At this point, it is worth noting that symptoms for autism spectrum disorder vary widely even in individuals with a similar disorder. As such, a treatment plan that works for one individual may not work for another individual who falls in the same autism spectrum band due to factors like severity of autism symptoms, genetic makeup, and upbringing. With this in mind, BCaBAs typically follow certain guidelines when working with autistic children. These guidelines can be broken down into the following broad steps:
A behavior analyst can learn a lot about a child’s autism symptoms by talking to his/her parent/s. It is worth noting that the patient does not necessarily have to be present during the initial consultation can. During this stage, the aim is to get an overview of the behavior, social skills, and communication problems that a child is facing. Moreover, consultation helps behavior analysts determine whether it is necessary to include other medical professionals such as psychologists and speech therapists in future consultation or treatment sessions. At the same time, parents can ask questions that they may have or seek clarification on issues like treatment options, costs, and treatment timelines. If the autistic child is present, a behavior analysis expert may observe his/her response to visual, verbal, and tactile stimuli. This is in addition to observing how he/she performs tasks like stacking blocks.
2. Program plan
After the consultation, a BCaBA typically designs a behavior intervention program that suits the learning, social interaction and communication needs of a child with autism. Where necessary, BCaBAs liaise with other professionals such as teachers and childcare providers to ensure they create an all-encompassing intervention program.
Since some children with autism face learning difficulties, behavior analysts incorporate learning tasks in behavior intervention programs. A good example of such as task is learning about shapes.
Since autistic children may face learning challenges, behavior analysts typically use different types of cues and prompts to encourage such children to perform specific tasks.
Where necessary, a BCaBA will help a child to perform or complete tasks. For instance, a BCaBA may guide a child’s hand to stack a block on top of another block.
Reinforcement refers to rewarding a child for completing an assigned task. The aim is to reinforce the same behavior using verbal and non-verbal rewards. Such a reward could be as simple as high-fiving a child every time the child completes a task successfully.
Over time, an autistic child can forget a learned behavior if left to his/her own devices. To ensure this does not happen, BCaBAs use repetitive learning sessions to ensure children can perform tasks without help all the time.
Generalization refers to rewarding an autistic child for exhibiting learned behavior in a different environment such as a noisy area.
Parents with autistic children should seek behavior intervention as early as possible to ensure their children hit key developmental milestones within the anticipated time frames. Behavior intervention for autistic children generally entails consulting and working with a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst. To achieve this goal, a BCaBA typically creates a behavior intervention program that revolves around tasks, prompts, guidance (if necessary), reinforcement, repetition, and generalization.
Learn more about the role of our BCaBas by calling Spectrum Behavioral Services, Inc. at: