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teaching child with autism

Behavioral therapy is my favorite teaching children with autism way so far because it can be used for a wide variety of behaviors and skills.  Applied Behavioral Analysis or ABA is an autism teaching strategy to correct a child's behavior (rather it is throwing a tantrum, getting eye contact or teaching social skills) and includes these techniques:

Discrete trials are the giving of an instruction which has a definite beginning and ending.  The beginning is the actual giving of the instruction and the end is the directed individual following (or not following) the instruction within a certain length of time (a few seconds).  This would be one discrete trial.  Trials can include mass (several) and expanded (several instructions) trials.  They use the following concepts:

  • breakdown tasks into very small units
  • systematic use of reinforcement as reward (food, toy or praise)
  • very clear simple language

  • errorless teaching is used by prompting the person so they don't get frustrated and get wanted reward

  • prompting is done from most-to-least.  You do the most prompting when starting a new activity such as hand over hand assistance.  Least prompting for tasks that are already or almost learned such as visual prompting

  • prompting includes: physical (includes hand over hand), positional (where it's placed on the table), gestural (pointing), verbal, and visual (use of instructors eyes).

The ways to teach children with autism are evolving constantly. Many parents complete courses from a variety of special education programs in hopes of staying current with new teaching styles.

As you might be able to tell prompting is very important.  Knowing when to use it and not use it is the hardest part for me anyway.

It is used to teach:

  • receptive language (to show an understanding of language)
  • expressive language (spoken use of language)
  • action on object command ("Put the toy on the chair.")

Incidental teaching or finding natural opportunities is also very important.  Finding that small window of interest can get the ball rolling!  It can assist with focus and the student being able to sit still.

Try these books:

  • A Work in Progress:  Behavior Management, Strategies and a Curriculum for Intensive Behavioral Treatment of Autism by Ron Leaf and John McEachin, Published by DRL Books, LLC, ISBN 0-9665266-0-0, 1999.
  • ABLLS, Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills is an assessment, curriculum guide and skills tracking system for children with autism and developmental disabilities.  This is an expensive, but valuable system that the school system should own.  Ask them about it!
  • Behavioral Intervention for Young Children with Autism:  A Manual for Parents and Professional by Catherine Maurice who saved two of her children, 1996.
  • Helping Children with Autism Learn:  A Guide to Treatment Approaches for Parents and Professionals, by Bryna Siegel, 2003.



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