Diagnosis and Intervention for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
A growing body of literature supports the use of ABA-based educational and behavioral treatments for children with autism. To select an appropriate, function-based behavioral intervention, a functional analysis is used to identify the variable(s) maintaining a child’s problem behavior. Previous research has shown that function-based treatments are more effective than treatments that are arbitrarily selected. Although a function-based approach to treatment identification has resulted in the provision of more effective treatments for children who engage in problem behavior, this approach to treatment identification has not been extended to the selection of academic interventions despite the potential advantages.
Problem behavior may be one of a number of barriers to learning that are exhibited by children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Although recent research has described a number of potential barriers to learning, intervention procedures to address specific learning barriers have not be evaluated. Thus, a critical next step for early intervention research is to identify and validate an assessment procedure that will help determine the function of various barriers to learning so that specific, function-based academic interventions can be identified and evaluated. By taking a function-based approach to the selection of academic interventions, we are hoping to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of academic interventions procedures for young children with ASD.
Assessment and Treatment of Severe Behavior Problems of Childhood and Adolescence
A substantial number of children with autism and other developmental disabilities display severe destructive behavior that poses a significant risk to themselves, other individuals, or to property. For example, self-injurious behavior (SIB) involves acts individuals repeatedly direct toward themselves that results in tissue damage, such as head banging, self-hitting, biting, or scratching. No single factor causes SIB or other forms of destructive behavior. However, our research has shown that both genetic and environmental variables play important roles in the etiology and maintenance of these debilitating conditions. Our current research on is focused on understanding how genetic and environmental factors interact and give rise to destructive behavior and on how this information can be used to improve interventions for these debilitating disorders.
A well-established approach to studying SIB and other forms of destructive behavior is called functional analysis. Functional analysis is used to determine the extent to which environmental variables that precede (i.e., antecedents) and follow (i.e., consequences) a behavior affect its probability. Results from epidemiological and meta analyses suggest that (a) environmental variables play an important role in the maintenance of destructive behavior for over 90% of individuals, and (b) interventions based on functional analysis results lead to more effective treatments. By using functional analysis methods to study SIB in children with specific genetic syndromes, we hope to improve our understanding of how genetic and environmental factors interact and influence the probability of SIB and other forms of destructive behavior.
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