Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder first termed by a man by the name of Kanner in 1943. He described a group of children as having severe language, behavior, and social interaction difficulties. These descriptors are what have come to be the core elements of autism today. Autism is characterized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (4th ed.) by a continuum of abnormal development in social interaction and communication combined with a restricted repertoire of activities and interests.
Children with autism are typically diagnosed by the age of two, with the prognosis generally being poor. The American Psychiatric Association’s 1994 estimated prevalence is about 1 per 1,000 individuals with males being diagnosed 3 times more than females. However, females are more likely than males to function in the mental retardation range (Gresham et al., 1999). Currently there is no known “cure” for autism. Therefore, in the following composition I am going to discuss some of the methods designed to manage the behavior of individuals with autism.Order now
The first program I am going to discuss is a project that was conducted by Lovaas beginning in 1970 called the UCLA Young Autism Project (YAP). The goal of this project was to increase behavioral functioning in children with autism by the use of simple commands (e.g. “Sit down,” “Look at me”). During the treatment, aggressive and self-stimulatory behaviors were either ignored or reacted to with a contingent physical and/or verbal punishment such as a slap on the thigh and/or a loud “No!” while alternative behaviors were reinforced (Gresham et al, 1999).
The research design used in this project was a quasi-experimental design.
The participants were not randomly assigned, but were coordinated into groups of 19 (Experimental, Control 1, and Control 2). Both children in the experimental group and control 1 received intensive one-to-one treatment beginning at average ages of 34.6 and 40.9 months respectively and continuing for two or more years. Children in the experimental group received at least 40 hours of treatment per week, whereas children in control 1 received 10 hours or less per week. Children in control 2 were not treated by the YAP personnel, but were given an unspecified form of treatment (Gresham et al.
At the end of the project, 47% of the children in the experimental group were reported as having “recovered.” This indicating that their IQ scores were in the normal range (M=7, Range=94-120), they had passed the first grade in a regular education classroom, and they showed continuing increases in social, emotional, and educational functioning. Lovaas also reported that the school staff described these children as indistinguishable from their normal peers. No children from control 1 and only one child from control 2 reached this point of “recovery” (Gresham et al., 1999).
Although the YAP appears to have been successful, there are many methodological issues to be considered. Most importantly is the lack of random selection, being a threat to both internal and external validity. For example, we cannot prove that the improvements were a direct cause of the treatment and had nothing to do with the children being from the same area. This study has not been able to be replicated, leaving even more questions about the study’s effectiveness and efficiency. Ethical issues also need to be taken into account. Would it be right to put children in a control group with no treatment if we know they will fare worse without it? Though the finding that discrete trail training can create normal functioning may be controversial, this does not mean that the program was of absolutely no benefit.
The use of this type of treatment has been shown to be helpful in teaching children discriminations among stimuli (Gresham et al., 1999). This program is only one of many designed to aid in the training of individuals with autism.
Another project that has received much attention is the program for the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH). This program was first conducted by the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina in 1971. And in 1972 became the state organization mandated to serve children with autism and their families.
In 1979 the mandate was extended to include .