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There is Hope...

For parents, autism is devastating. Imagine never hearing your child call your name, share a discovery, or look into your eyes. The panic and fear a parent experiences as his or her child rejects the people and world around him is heartbreaking. For children, autism severely limits the potential for an independent future. Though there is no cure for autism, there is hope — through INTENSIVE EARLY BEHAVIORAL INTERVENTION.

The Research...
Autism can be overcome! Led by the promising work of Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas of UCLA’s Clinic for the Behavioral Treatment of Children, Edward C. Fenske and colleagues of Princeton Child Development Center, and others, the research indicates that nearly half of young children with autism treated by an early intensive behavioral intervention program achieve normal or near normal intellectual and educational functioning by first grade. One follow-up study showed these children maintain normal functioning and as adults are leading normal lives, attending college and participating fully as members of their communities. Equally encouraging, the research suggests that most children benefit from such programs by enhancing communication, cognitive, social and self-help skills.

Intensive Early Behavioral Intervention
Similar to the method used by Annie Sullivan to teach Helen Keller, intensive behavioral intervention involves individually addressing a child’s behavioral deficits and excesses. Breaking down deficit skills to small incremental tasks, a behavioral therapist works one-on-one with a child using repetition, feedback, and positive reinforcers to allow a child to master small tasks. Once mastered, basic skills are used to develop more complex abilities. Behavioral excesses, such as tantruming, aggression, and repetitive behaviors, are also addressed so that a child may learn how to more effectively and appropriately socially interact. Characteristics of intensive behavioral treatment are:

• At least two years of therapy including 30 to 40 hours per week of one-on-one behavioral intervention. The more hours, the better the results.
• One-on-one teaching by trained therapists of specific cognitive, language, social and self-help skills.
• The use of positive reinforcers – not punishment.

Though not a cure, early intensive behavioral intervention can make a significant difference in the life of a child with autism. Based on basic learning principles, its fundamental goal is not only to teach a child specific skills, but to ultimately develop a child’s ability to learn how to learn.

The effects of an early intensive behavioral treatment program can be profound. For families, every step made towards more developmentally appropriate behaviors rekindles the optimism for a child’s future once destroyed by an autism diagnosis. Furthermore, the benefits of gains made by children with autism are shared with their communities through the prospect of more productive, independent and normal lives.