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what is autism?


Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. People with ASDs handle information in their brain differently than other people.

ASDs are "spectrum disorders." That means ASDs affect each person in different ways, and can range from very mild to severe. People with ASDs share some similar symptoms, such as problems with social interaction. But there are differences in when the symptoms start, how severe they are, and the exact nature of the symptoms.



Photo: Child playing with blocksASDs occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, but are four times more likely to occur in boys than in girls. CDC estimates that between about 1 in 80 and 1 in 240, with an average of 1 in 110, children in the United States have an ASD.

More people than ever before are being diagnosed with an ASD. It is unclear exactly how much of this increase is due to a broader definition of ASDs and better efforts in diagnosis. However, a true increase in the number of people with an ASD cannot be ruled out. We believe the increase in ASD diagnosis is likely due to a combination of these factors.

Within the past decade, CDC's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network has been estimating the number of people with an ASD in the U.S. We have learned a lot about how many children in the U.S. have an ASD. It will be important to use the same methods to track how the number of people with an ASD is changing over time in order to learn more about the disorders.



If you think your child might have an ASD or you think there could be a problem with the way your child plays, learns, speaks, or acts, contact your child's doctor, and share your concerns.

If you or the doctor is still concerned, ask the doctor for a referral to a specialist who can do a more in-depth evaluation of your child. Specialists who can do a more in-depth evaluation and make a diagnosis include:

* Developmental Pediatricians (doctors who have special training in child development and children with special needs)
* Child Neurologists (doctors who work on the brain, spine, and nerves)
* Child Psychologists or Psychiatrists (doctors who know about the human mind)

At the same time, call your state's public early childhood system to request a free evaluation to find out if your child qualifies for intervention services. This is sometimes called a Child Find evaluation. You do not need to wait for a doctor's referral or a medical diagnosis to make his call.

Where to call for a free evaluation from the state depends on your child's age:

* If your child is not yet 3 years old, contact your local early intervention system.

You can find the right contact information for your state by calling the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) at 1-800-695-0285.

Or visit the NICHCY websiteExternal Web Site Icon. Once you find your state on this webpage, look for the heading "Programs for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities: Ages Birth through 3".

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what is applied behavior analysis (ABA)?


Behavior Analysis is the scientific study of behavior. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the application of the principles of learning and motivation from Behavior Analysis, and the procedures and technology derived from those principles, to the solution of problems of social significance. Many decades of research have validated treatments based on ABA.

Over the past 30 years, several thousand published research studies have documented the effectiveness of ABA across a wide ransge of:

- populations (children and adults with mental illness, developmental disabilities and learning disorders)
- interventionists (parents, teachers and staff)
- settings (schools, homes, institutions, group homes, hospitals and business offices), and
- behaviors (language; social, academic, leisure and functional life skills; aggression, selfinjury, oppositional and stereotyped behaviors)

Applied behavior analysis is the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree, and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behavior (Baer, Wolf & Risley, 1968; Sulzer-Azaroff & Mayer, 1991).



"Socially significant behaviors" include reading, academics, social skills, communication, and adaptive living skills. Adaptive living skills include gross and fine motor skills, eating and food preparation, toileting, dressing, personal self-care, domestic skills, time and punctuality, money and value, home and community orientation, and work skills.



ABA methods are used to support persons with autism in at least six ways:

- to increase behaviors (eg reinforcement procedures increase on-task behavior, or social interactions);
- to teach new skills (eg, systematic instruction and reinforcement procedures teach functional life skills, communication skills, or social skills);
- to maintain behaviors (eg, teaching self control and self-monitoring procedures to maintain and generalize job-related social skills);
- to generalize or to transfer behavior from one situation or response to another (eg, from completing assignments in the resource room to performing as well in the mainstream classroom);
to restrict or narrow conditions under which interfering behaviors occur (eg, modifying the learning environment); and to reduce interfering behaviors (eg, self injury or stereotypy).

ABA is an objective discipline. ABA focuses on the reliable measurement and objective evaluation of observable behavior



Reliable measurement requires that behaviors are defined objectively. Vague terms such as anger, depression, aggression or tantrums are redefined in observable and quantifiable terms, so their frequency, duration or other measurable properties can be directly recorded (Sulzer-Azaroff & Mayer, 1991). For example, a goal to reduce a child's aggressive behavior might define "aggression" as: "attempts, episodes or occurrences (each separated by 10 seconds) of biting, scratching, pinching or pulling hair." "Initiating social interaction with peers" might be defined as: "looking at classmate and verbalizing an appropriate greeting."



ABA interventions require a demonstration of the events that are responsible for the occurrence, or non-occurrence, of behavior. ABA uses methods of analysis that yield convincing, reproducible, and conceptually sensible demonstrations of how to accomplish specific behavior changes (Baer & Risley, 1987). Moreover, these behaviors are evaluated within relevant settings such as schools, homes and the community. The use of single case experimental design to evaluate the effectiveness of individualized interventions is an essential component of programs based upon ABA methodologies. This is a process that includes the following components:

- selection of interfering behavior or behavioral skill deficit
- identification of goals and objectives
- establishment of a method of measuring target behaviors
- evaluation of the current levels of performance (baseline)
- design and implementation of the interventions that teach new skills and/or reduce interfering behaviors
- continuous measurement of target behaviors to determine the effectiveness of the intervention, and
- ongoing evaluation of the effectiveness of the intervention, with modifications made as necessary to maintain and/or increase both the effectiveness and the efficiency of the intervention.

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what is ProAct® Training?


For more than three decades Pro-ACT® has been a leader in providing training and education for professionals committed to creating safer hospitals, residential facilities, classrooms, and treatment environments. The newly introduced 2010 materials combine Pro-ACT's® problem-solving approach to creating safety with its uncompromising standard of dignity, and respect for all people.

In the rapidly changing professional, social, and political landscapes in which Pro-ACT® professionals work, it is essential to have up-to-date information. The newly revised Pro-ACT® materials represent the latest understanding of safety and care in a format that is easily understood and implemented by the employees in your organization.

Pro-ACT® where safety, dignity, and respect come together.

Pro-ACT® Objective:

The Pro-ACT® program was designed to provide professionals with the opportunity to develop necessary understanding and skills to avoid or reduce the need for restraint. Pro-ACT® principles focus on maintaining the safety and dignity of the client while keeping everyone safe. The ultimate goal is to help clients learn alternative methods for meeting their needs and developing self-control.

Pro-ACT® Background:

The principles used in Professional Assault Crisis Training have been in continuous development since 1968. These principles are research-based and have proven effective for over 30 years. The latest revisions, new name, and new choices of certification reflect our long-standing emphasis on avoidance in the use of restraint. This is in keeping with recent local, regional, and national trends. Workshops based on these principles are currently being taught in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Germany, Russia, Finland, and various other countries.

Pro-ACT® Philosophy Is Designed To:

Respect client rights and the need for a non-coercive environment;
Minimize the risks associated with emergency response to assaultive behavior;
Emphasize the role of supervision of employee behavior;
Encourage strongly worded and strictly enforced policies;
Promote regular in-service training;
Support continuous upgrading of skills and knowledge;
Be free of gender bias;
Emphasize team skills;
Provide experience in problem solving.

Pro-ACT® is based on principles rather than techniques

While specific techniques can be re-assuring in the training room, they are not remembered or applied correctly in the crisis. Because no two violent emergencies are exactly alike, it is not possible to provide a single technique to be followed. There is no one right answer. Pro-ACT® provides a framework of principles to stimulate critical thinking and to set parameters within which to exercise professional judgment. The framework includes professionalism, preparation, problem solving, teamwork, assessment, and effective crisis communication.

Pro-ACT® principles and restraint

Development and implementation of an individualized primary plan (intervention or treatment plan) is the most important vehicle for maintaining safety. The need for restraint, then, can be viewed as an indication of a weakness in the primary plan or a failure to implement the plan. When the primary plan breaks down and assaultive incidents occur, restraint may become necessary, but only as a last resort. In that instance, the restraint is an indicator of a treatment failure.

Guidelines for restraint will include specific principles to be applied when critical thinking and professional judgment will be required.

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what is Discreet Trial Training?

Discrete Trial Training (DTT) is an intervention used with young children with Autistic Disorder. DTT applies basic behavioral principles to instructional tasks. In DTT, complex skills are broken down into simple steps. Each of these steps is learned before the skill is made any more complicated. A three-part teaching unit, consisting of an instruction, a response, and feedback about the response is utilized to maximize learning and reduce frustration. This process assists children to retain the skills they have previously learned, by having each new concept build upon previously learned skills.

Parents are often concerned that DTT services for their child will be unnecessarily repetitive and "boring." Though a certain amount of repetition is required for all of us to learn, DTT does not have to be boring! At IABA, we incorporate DTT teaching methodologies into play and social situations, so that your child can benefit from this effective behavioral teaching style in a naturalistic setting. As with all of our services, parent participation is a key factor and we will work collaboratively with your family to design interventions that are most beneficial to your unique needs.

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what are Competency Based Trainings?

Many agencies world-wide, providing services to persons with developmental disabilities, are struggling with the issue of how to best train staff and give them the skills needed to provide quality services. These agencies are looking for a comprehensive approach to staff training with specific outcomes and without the luxury of a full-time trainer. What kind of training do agencies offer so that staff feel competent to carry out their challenging job responsibilities?

IABA has developed a systematic, criterion-referenced and self-instructional training course for staff working primarily in the field of developmental disabilities. The Competency Based Training (CBT) series was first developed by IABA in 1985 to be used in training its own staff. The principles contained in the CBTs have been successfully used in the fields of adult services (supported employment, supported living and other residential options) as well as schools serving children and adolescents. Agencies serving other populations (e.g., mental health and neurobehavior centers) have also utilized the training series to increase the level of staff competence.

Some of the principles and skills taught in the CBTs include the principle of full inclusion, instructional strategies, the function of behavior challenges, public relations, positive support strategies, problem-solving and troubleshooting skills and more. To demonstrate competence for each module, staff must meet specific criteria such as objective tests, role-plays and field assignments.

The CBT package includes 16 modules with 73 competencies and 130 criteria, a library of 4 textbooks and 2 videotapes, an Instructor's Manual and tests and answers for each topic. There are 5 of the 16 topics which are customized to incorporate specifics which may be unique to each agency.

The CBT has been field tested for over 11 years in a variety of settings. It is complete, comprehensive and includes critical training that direct care staff need and is flexible enough to be integrated with an agency's unique needs and existing training.

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what is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?


Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. People with ASDs handle information in their brain differently than other people.

ASDs are "spectrum disorders." That means ASDs affect each person in different ways, and can range from very mild to severe. People with ASDs share some similar symptoms, such as problems with social interaction. But there are differences in when the symptoms start, how severe they are, and the exact nature of the symptoms.


* Autistic Disorder (also called "classic" autism)
This is what most people think of when hearing the word "autism." People with autistic disorder usually have significant language delays, social and communication challenges, and unusual behaviors and interests. Many people with autistic disorder also have intellectual disability.

* Asperger Syndrome
People with Asperger syndrome usually have some milder symptoms of autistic disorder. They might have social challenges and unusual behaviors and interests. However, they typically do not have problems with language or intellectual disability.


ASDs begin before the age of 3 and last throughout a person's life, although symptoms may improve over time. Some children with an ASD show hints of future problems within the first few months of life. In others, symptoms might not show up until 24 months or later. Some children with an ASD seem to develop normally until around 18 to 24 months of age and then they stop gaining new skills, or they lose the skills they once had.

A person with an ASD might:

* Not respond to their name by 12 months
* Not point at objects to show interest (point at an airplane flying over) by 14 months
* Not play "pretend" games (pretend to "feed" a doll) by 18 months
* Avoid eye contact and want to be alone
* Have trouble understanding other people's feelings or talking about their own feelings
* Have delayed speech and language skills
* Repeat words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
* Give unrelated answers to questions
* Get upset by minor changes
* Have obsessive interests
* Flap their hands, rock their body, or spin in circles
* Have unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel

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