​Autism Symptoms and Treatment

Up until the mid 1980s children with ASDs were viewed as largely untreatable (Cohen, Amerine-Dickens, & Smith, 2006). It was not until Dr. Ivar Lovaas (1987) constructed and pioneered an intensive behavioral treatment for young children with autism – discrete trial training (DTT) that an effective treatment models for ASD was realized. Lovaas’ (1987) study assigned 19 children to either an intensive-treatment group or a minimal-treatment group. Children from the intensive group received 40 hours of one-on-one treatment a week over 2 years while children in the minimal group received 10 hours over the same period of time. The results of the study indicated that 47% of the children in the intensive treatment group showed significant gains in intellectual achievement compared to 2% of the minimal treatment group.

Since 1968 when Baer, Wolf, & Risley produced the seminal paper tiled “Some current dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis” a growing body of literature has demonstrated the effective use of ABA-based programs to change behaviors of social significance. Topics of these studies have included communication training, social skills instruction, teaching adaptive skills, and treatment of challenging behaviors.

Several review papers and meta-analysis have summarized the published research on ABA-based interventions including reviews of comprehensive behavior intervention programs (Dawson & Bruner, 2011; Elsketh, Klintwall, Jahr, & Carlson, 2012), reviews of social skills training (Reichow & Volkmar, 2010), reducing problem behaviors in children with ASD (Didden, Duker, & Korzillius, 1997; Doehering et al., 2013; Harvey, Boer, Meyer, & Evans, 2009; Heyvaert, Maes, Van den Noortgate, Kuppens, & Onghena, 2012; Ma, 2009), and treatment of elopement (Anderson et al., 2012; Lang et al., 2009). In addition, several meta-analysis that targeted comprehensive ABA-based approaches for children with ASD concluded that when comprehensive ABA-based programs were a positive relationship existed between comprehensive ABA-programs and positive effects on the intellectual functioning, adaptive behavior, and language development of individuals with ASD.

Three systematic evaluative reviews have been conducted on ABA-based interventions where the research was analyzed to determine if these treatments could be characterized as “empirically supported” or “established” based upon the number of studies and the quality of these studies as determined by quality indicators of single-subject research (Horner et al., 2005). The National Standards Project (NAC, 2009) developed a model to evaluate interventions for problems associated with ASD. In this systematic review the NAC (2009) identified 11 treatments that were established as effective for children with ASD. In total 531 studies were systematically reviewed the results of which then determined which interventions could be categorized as an established treatment. Over 500 of these studies were ABA-based interventions.

The types of ABA therapy we provide here at Connections include:

  • Discrete Trial Training

  • Naturalistic Interventions, including Incidental Teaching

  • Pivotal Response Training

  • Natural Environment Training

  • Embedded Instruction

  • Project-Based Learning

Please contact us at 425-658-3016 to schedule an appointment to discuss the most appropriate treatment for your child.

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Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy

To help our students learn we target pivotal behaviors, such as:

On-Task Behavior
Making Appropriate Choices
Joint Attention (attending to a common object)
Following Instructions
Receptive and Expressive Language Skills
Initiating & Sustaining Social Interactions
Responding to Questions
Maintaining Socially Acceptable Behavior
Transitioning Between ActivitiesType your paragraph here.

Center-Based Program:
Our center-based program for 2-5 year olds is up and running and we are close to capacity – only a couple spots are left open. Children attend the program at our Kent Office for 3 to 6 hours each day (dependent upon need and approval). We have designed the center-based program to improve learning outcomes for our students and their families. Our therapists, guided by the program team (including parents and a BCBA), engage in a variety of evidence-based practices to meet student’s individual needs. The use of pivotal response treatment, incidental teaching, structured teaching techniques, embedded instruction, social skills instruction, and discrete trial training are all utilized to meet the individual needs of the child.

Our Center-Based programs offer the following services:                                                                                                      


Behavior assessment

Person-centered planning
Systematic development of Treatment Plans
Ongoing monitoring of Treatment Plans
Parent training
Data collection & data-based decision making

Applied Behavior Analysis
Naturalistic interventions

Incidental teaching
Discrete trial teaching
Social skills groups

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a science in which behavioral procedures are systematically applied to improve socially significant behaviors in real-world settings (Heward, 1987). Applied behavior analysis is the only treatment for children with ASD that has been endorsed by the United States Surgeon General (2000) and is viewed as the gold standard for treatment of children with ASD (Shook & Neisworth, 2005). In addition, several reviews of ABA-based procedures for the treatment of autism have concluded that ABA treatment is the most optimal (Barberesi et al.; 2006) has the strongest empirical basis (Sturmey, 2002), is most efficacious (Lilienfeld, 2005), and shows the most substantial and sustained gains across multiple skills (Myers & Johnson, 2007).

At Connections, our skilled therapists trained in ABA work with children in their homes, schools, out in the community, or our center based program based upon the child’s specific needs. Our programs are highly intensive and we like to includes the parents of our children whenever possible. Our Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA’s), behavior therapists, and parents are all a part of the treatment team. Paul and James, two highly trained and experienced clinical supervisors oversee the child’s treatment team. Every 4-6 weeks our Connections Team will meet separately from the home and school therapies in order to share data, maximize consistency across team members, problem solve behavioral challenges and to introduce the child to new goals.

There is considerable evidence that early intensive behavior interventions produces large and lasting functional improvements in many children with autism. Research has shown that the most appropriate education for children with autism includes early, intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI). Every program is individualized according to the child’s specific strengths and deficits. The goal is always to improve deficit areas and decrease or eliminate the inappropriate behaviors often associated with autism.

ABA-based techniques have been found to be effective across several studies; children have been shown to make sustained gains in academic performance, adaptive behavior, and language acquisition. Since the 1960’s, hundreds of researchers have documented the effectiveness of ABA principles and methods for:

  1. Increasing behaviors (e.g., on-task behaviors, social interactions)
  2. Teaching new behaviors (e.g., language skills, self-help skills, social skills, and play skills)
  3. Maintaining behaviors that have been taught
  4. Generalizing or transferring behaviors from one situation or response to another (e.g., completing daily activities at home and in the community)
  5. Reducing maladaptive behaviors (e.g., self-injury or stereotypy) in individuals diagnosed with ASD.

Planning, directing, and monitoring effective services for individuals with ASD, requires specific skills and competencies. Individuals with ASD, their families, and other consumers have the right to know whether people who claim to be qualified to direct ABA interventions actually have the necessary competencies. Since individuals with ASD have a variety of needs, not every service provider has the competencies required to optimally address the needs of every individual with autism.