Autism is a complex neurological disorder that typically affects the brain’s basic functioning during the first three years of life, resulting in varying degrees of cognitive, social, and communication deficits. While many estimates maintain that one in every 150 children have autism, other studies purport the occurrence to be even higher (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007). In fact, autism spectrum disorders are second, only to mental retardation, as among the most prevalent developmental disabilities to date. Autism is four times more common in boys than girls and strikes irrespective of a child’s racial, ethnic, or social circumstances.
What we know about autism is far less than what we don’t know.
- Identified in the 1940s, autism was estimated to affect approximately 1 in 2,500-5,000 children. The CDC now estimates that 1 in every 68 children has been identified with ASD.
- Autism strikes before the age of three and can be difficult to diagnose at the early ages when it is crucial that intervention begins for the most successful treatment.
- Autism is far more likely to occur in boys, and though it ranges in severity, it typically involves tremendous social and communication challenges.
We don’t know precisely what causes it, why it is dramatically increasing, how to prevent it, or how to cure it. For all we don’t know, however, we DO know that the proper treatment can have an enormous impact and that treatment is more effective if begun at a young age. By supporting The Brent Woodall Foundation for Exceptional Children, you are supporting an organization that focuses all of its energy on this group of affected children where it can be most effective.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a systematic application of a set of scientific principles for teaching appropriate behaviors and reducing problematic behaviors. ABA is based on the modification of human behavior. The therapy involves breaking down skills into small, discrete, and measurable tasks that are taught through a highly structured and hierarchical clinical method. Data on a child’s knowledge acquisition is recorded regularly and systematically while therapists closely monitor it and make appropriate adjustments to the programs according to indications of progress.
In his 1999 Report on Mental Health, the Surgeon General endorsed the use of Applied Behavior Analysis in the treatment for children with autism saying, “Thirty years of research demonstrated the efficacy of applied behavioral methods in reducing inappropriate behavior and in increasing communication, learning, and appropriate social behavior.” Children with autism and developmental disabilities often have serious deficits (i.e. no or limited expressive/receptive language, limited social skills, limited independent living skills, etc.). ABA can be used to teach a variety of skills to overcome such deficits. In addition, ABA has shown to successfully decrease behavioral excesses (i.e. aggressive behaviors, tantrum behaviors, etc.) often demonstrated by children with autism and other developmental disabilities. Extensive research studies suggest that intervention before three years of age (early intervention) yields the most promising long-term results for children with autism and developmental disabilities.