Autistic spectrum disorder
Autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts the functioning and development of the brain. The causes of Autism are unknown. The effects of autism and the severity of symptoms are different in each person; which is why it is referred to as a spectrum. There are a range of abilities and characteristics and no two individuals appear to be affected in the same way.
Generally, ASD is diagnosed in childhood. About 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with autism according to the Centre for Disease control and prevention. ASD is three to four times more common in boys than girls.
How it affects individuals:
Autism may affect:
- Interactions with others in social situations- they may have difficulty making friends, understanding relationships and social hierarchies and difficulty reading facial expressions.
- Communication with others- some children focus conversation on few topic areas, repetitive speech or some have none or limited verbal language.
- Repetitive body movements and behaviours- sometimes referred to as self-stimulatory behaviours such as hand flapping, spinning or finger flicking
- Behavioural presentation for example may exhibit behaviours that challenge
- Overall development for example children with ASD may be behind peer-levels, which can create complex challenges in school.
- Fine and Gross motor difficulties
- Difficulties in acquiring new skills
- Emotional difficulties
- Narrow interests
- Rigid routines and behaviours
- Multi-sensory impairments
- Motivation/confidence to initiate activities
- Perspective taking and executive functioning skills may be impaired
With the right support and early intervention individuals with ASD can lead a full and purposeful life. However with support they may have difficulties gaining independence, having a good quality of life, may find it difficult to develop and maintain appropriate peer relationships and may find it hard to suitable employment. The following therapies have research evidence to support their efficacy in enabling individuals with ASD to have greater independence in life.
- Applied Behaviour Analysis/ Verbal behaviour (ABA/VB)
- Positive Behaviour Support (PBS)
- Salt and language therapy (SALT)
- Occupational therapy (OT)
- Bio-medical/nutritional support
Behaviour Analysis approach ASD:
Early diagnosis and intervention has been found to be effective in teaching children skills such as language, communication, play and social skills.
Behavioural Analysis principles have been found to be effective to support people with ASD to learn language, academic, social and play skills and also reduce behaviours that challenge. Behaviour Analysts examine the reasons for behaviours that challenge. They then develop interventions to address the underlying environmental cause of the behaviour.
A number of research studies have shown that ABA techniques can improve communication, social relationships, play, self-care and employment in individuals with ASD. Some studies have shown that children with autism experience significant improvements in learning, reasoning, communication and flexibility when they participate in ABA programs. Some pre-schoolers acquire sufficient skills to participate in regular classrooms with little or no additional support. Other children may learn important skills but still need additional support in the classroom.
All Behaviour Consultancy Approach:
At ABC we use the following ABA principles to support children with autism to increase language, communication and functional living skills as well as work to decrease behaviours that challenge:
- We emphasise the use of proactive strategies to prevent behaviours that challenge rather than reactive strategies that often do not teach individuals how to get their needs met. We have a thorough assessment process to identify the function of behaviours that challenge and match interventions to reduce the likelihood of the behaviour happening rather.
- Our early intervention programs focus on teaching skills is through play. We use the child’s motivations to ensure learning is fun and functional. This is commonly referred to as Natural Environment Teaching or NET.
- We teach communication using the principles of Verbal Behaviour ensuring communication is functional, age appropriate and taught through play.
- We promote independence by teaching self-help skills and age appropriate functional daily living skills. We plan for generalisation and work program to decrease prompts as early as possible to ensure individuals are being set up for success and to be as independent as they can be.
- We teach skills and behaviours that are important for the individuals, their families and caregivers.
- We provide individualised parent training programs that aim to teach parents and carers about positive behaviour support strategies while increasing confidence in their ability to help the child and improve relationship
- We run social skills groups. Our social skills groups meet weekly term time only. Our aim is to support children to interact and use functional communication skills in situations by learning how their behaviour affects others.
All Behaviour Consultancy, currently offers services to schools, families CCGs, Independent care providers and charities which support children with ASD.