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Educational Approaches for Treating Autism

There are at least two educational approaches that have been more widely adopted for children on the autism spectrum than other programs. One, applied behavior analysis (ABA) for younger children with an autism spectrum disorder, has been scientifically studied and demonstrated to be highly effective in many cases. For a large minority of children who participate in an intensive behavioral intervention using the principles of applied behavior analysis, significant and meaningful gains are made in language skills, cognitive skills, and adaptive behavior. ABA instruction utilizes a one-on-one teaching approach that relies upon reinforced practice of various skills where the goal is to approach or achieve typical developmental functioning. ABA programs are usually implemented within a child?s home, under the supervision of a behavioral psychologist, and can be very expensive. School systems have not widely adopted intensive behavior intervention programs, and parents often must seek funding and human resources to implement an ABA program from other sources. These resources can be quite limited in most communities.

Another educational program is called the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH). TEACCH was developed as a statewide program in North Carolina. TEACCH is a lifespan instructional program where the goal is to construct environments in which children with autism can function as independently as possible. TEACCH utilizes visual strategies such as picture schedules and other visual cues to promote a child?s independent working and to organize and structure their environments. Though improved adaptation and skill enhancement are goals of TEACCH, there is also an emphasis on acceptance of the deficits associated with autism spectrum disorders. In contrast to ABA approaches, TEACCH programs do not anticipate that children will achieve typical developmental progress in response to the treatment.

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Last Reviewed: Mar 28, 2005

Eric   Butter, PhD Eric Butter, PhD
Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatricsl
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychology
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University