Research has shown that comprehensive, behavioral treatment programs based upon the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis, are most likely to form lasting and life-changing gains in young children with autism.
Children with autism characteristically do not learn the same skills in the same way as their peers. Young children who follow a typical path of development are constantly learning from their environment and are acquiring new skills at a rapid rate, while learners with autism might not. Treatment programs based upon Applied Behavior Analysis create opportunities for children to access the learning opportunities that other children naturally seek out by: enriching the learning environment, breaking down skills into small steps, and using high levels of positive reinforcement.
Behavioral treatment programs focus first on developing a positive rapport through sensory-social games and activities, the presentation of preferred toys, and shared enjoyment. Once an interactive learning environment is established, more structured learning opportunities are introduced. Structured learning opportunities involve the instructor presenting small tasks, and then providing your child with access to preferred activities and positive reinforcers; this structured approach allows for skills to be taught in a gradual and developmentally appropriate manner.
At the Wisconsin Early Autism Project, we conduct ongoing research to monitor and demonstrate the effectiveness of behavioral treatment programs for young children with autism.
The use of Applied Behavior Analysis in the treatment of children with autism was pioneered by Dr. Ivar Lovaas at the University of California – Los Angeles, whose research proved that early, intensive behavioral treatment programs can result in significant and life-changing gains. In the mid-1990s, the National Institute of Mental Health supported research at the Wisconsin Early Autism Project. As a result, WEAP replicated the work of Dr. Lovaas, bringing to the forefront of autism treatment a comprehensive approach to helping children with autism narrow their developmental gap and integrate into their schools and community with confidence.
Our research-based treatment programs use multiple methods to address a range of skill areas, including learning readiness, social communication, social interaction, school readiness, self-care, and community integration. Treatment is most effective when started
between the ages of 2-4, and when provided for a high number of hours per week (up to 40). Comprehensive treatment is usually recommended for 2-3 years in duration, followed by systematic and planned integration into an appropriate educational placement.