By chance I was looking at an email that was sent by an agency I used to work for. It was encouraging all therapists to learn a new web-based program which was designed to help children with autism. I decided to take a look at the program and I was completely amazed by what I found.
The name of the program is “Rethink Autism”. It is a comprehensive therapy program which uses ABA (applied behavior analysis) to treat children on the autism spectrum.
I contacted one of the programs coordinators, and she was kind enough to send me some literature and a guest login code. When I got the login access, I immediately signed in. The program has you fill in a profile form which includes questions on various skills performance. Questions cover social, academic, emotional and motor skill abilities. Once completed, I was prompted to submit the completed profile. A recommended lesson plan was created within seconds based on the profile. The system also made additional lesson recommendations that I could add or discard. I wasn’t sure what to do next, so I clicked on a prompt for help. A window popped up with a detailed explanation of how to start the lessons and how to chart the progress. Each lesson has a video which demonstrates how to administer the therapy. I was happily surprised to see that the video also gave helpful hints about what to do to gain attention. Each step of the lesson has a mastery requirement which needs to be completed before starting the next step. The criteria may differ. The system provides an easy to use performance trial checklist. You repeat the task a number of times, and then check off whether or not it was successful. The information is kept by the system so that progress can be charted. There was even a section for note taking in case you want to leave comments for other members of the team. Rethink Autism developers added a box which can be marked priority in case there is something important you want a team member to note.
The video demonstration I watched was for “imitating gross motor movement”. It showed a therapist working with a child and using the specific technique that was being recommended. The therapist wanted the little girl to touch her shoulders with her hands. This was done by modeling and helping the child with placing the hands. When the little girl got distracted, a helpful hint was offered. It recommended that the therapist hold a piece of candy to her nose in order to get the little girl to focus again. The therapist in the video demonstrated how to do the “tip”. Additionally, I printed out the lesson plan and data sheet. The lesson plan was comprehensive. It gave step by step instruction and guidelines for the therapy, as well as troubleshooting, prompting and error correction procedures. It also included a list of sample skills to teach.
I am personally a huge fan of the ABA method. I worked with many autistic children over the years and found it to be more effective than any other method.
According to the Rethink Autism site “ABA is the only treatment for autism whose benefits have been consistently validated by independent scientific research. In fact, ABA has been endorsed as an effective intervention for autism by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the United States Surgeon General.” Applied behavior analysis is a type of behavior modification program. I recently discussed discrete trial training, which is used in ABA, and its benefits in working with children with any type of social/emotional/behavioral issue.
Many child development experts will agree that reward reinforcement based treatment consistently out performs sensory based protocols. It has the advantage of targeting specific goals and yielding measureable results.
Rethink Autism offers weekly tips, community based support and free webinars from autism experts. It seems the developers of this program left no stone unturned. They even offer a free one week trial so that you don’t have to commit without trying out the program. I reviewed their price schedule, and it is very affordable. Keep in mind that therapy is expensive. This program offers a vast amount of resources and professional training which you can use as often as necessary. More importantly, you can do it yourself from the comfort of your home. You don’t need to waste time or money traveling to a clinic or center-based program.
There is more to this program that I did not speak about today. Please do yourself a favor and take a look. I know from experience that this type of program is not always easy to find for those who live in rural parts of the country. I know that some states do not provide state-funded early intervention services. This program offers professionally trained step by step guidance from ABA experts. I think you’ll be as impressed as I was once you see it for yourself.
One last note. They do recommend that you work in conjunction with a trained behavior expert. I believe that if you need one and none are available in your area, you can consult with one from Rethink Autism for a small additional monthly fee.