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SEARCH is committed to providing learners with comprehensive, behavior-analytic programming designed to produce optimal results. Our full-time programs offer highly-specialized and individualized programming, which target the core deficits of autism, specifically language, communication, and social and peer interaction skills. SEARCH employs the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) by breaking down complex skills into smaller, more manageable components and teaching each systematically. As learners acquire these foundational skills, more advanced targets are systematically introduced using a scaffolding approach, which in turn, sets up all of our learners for success.

ABA has been endorsed by both state and federal agencies, including the United States Surgeon General, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the American Psychological Association, and the New York State Department of Health.

SEARCH values its relationship with parents and caregivers and realizes that these individuals are critical members of our treatment team. SEARCH staff work closely with parents to guide them through every step of the process. Whether it is providing help addressing challenging behaviors, providing insurance support, or directing a family to professionals in related fields, SEARCH prides itself on offering families a balanced and comprehensive approach designed to drive the greater process.

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Facts about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

When a family is faced with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis, it is imperative that they receive accurate information about effective treatment as there are a multitude of therapies that may be marketed. There are decades of peer-reviewed research documenting the efficacy of ABA as a treatment for ASD. Applied behavior analysis, or ABA, is simply the application of behavioral principles to increase or decrease targeted behaviors. In other words, ABA allows individuals to make meaningful and lasting changes in their lives by employing intervention based on an understanding of how behavior works. ABA has been documented to be effective in teaching language, communication, social interaction, play, leisure, academic, and self-help skills. Additionally, ABA can effectively decrease interfering behaviors, which can impact a child’s availability for learning.

ABA is individualized and tailored to the specific needs of each learner. All intervention is data-driven, and clinical decisions are made based on careful and ongoing analysis of each learner’s progress. Specific goals and objectives are selected by identifying strengths and weaknesses and then designing teaching procedures based on the individual needs of each learner. Behavior-analytic instruction utilizes repetition and reinforcement to allow for meaningful learning to occur. Behavior analysts use dozens of evidence-based instructional strategies including discrete trial instruction, incidental teaching, audio and video modeling, schedule following, scripting and script fading, activity schedules, and small group instruction.

Common Signs of Autism

The hallmark features of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are impaired social communication skills and social interactions. As early as infancy, a baby with ASD may be unresponsive to people or focus intently on one item, at the exclusion of others, for long periods of time. A child with ASD may appear to develop normally and then withdraw and become indifferent to social engagement.

Children with ASD may fail to respond to their names and avoid eye contact with others. Learners with ASD often have difficulty interpreting what others are thinking or feeling because of difficulties understanding social cues, such as tone of voice or facial expressions. Children with ASD may lack empathy, making it challenging to form relationships with others. Children with ASD will display deficits in social skill development, which may manifest as a lack of imaginative play, challenges with making friends, or as a lack of interest in peers at all.

Many children with autism spectrum disorders will engage in repetitive movements or patterns of behavior. Individuals with ASD may present with stereotyped motor movements (e.g., rocking, facial posturing), stereotyped use of objects (e.g., lining up toys, spinning objects), or stereotyped speech (e.g., echolalia, scripting, unusual tone or pitch). Children with ASD may display an insistence on sameness and be inflexible to changes in routines. These impairments may manifest as difficulty with transitions, rigidity, and distress at small changes. Additionally, individuals with ASD may demonstrate highly-restricted and fixated interests that are atypical in focus or intensity.

How Autism is Diagnosed

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) varies widely in severity and symptoms and may go unrecognized, especially in mildly-affected children or until social demands exceed a child’s capacity. There is no medical test for autism; rather physicians look at a child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis. Developmental screenings are the first step in identification. These screenings typically occur during regular well-visits at a pediatrician and allow the doctor to identify any possible delays in learning, language, or social development. Additionally, all children should be screened specifically for ASD during well-visits at 18 and 24 months. If a doctor sees any signs of atypical development, a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation should occur.

The comprehensive evaluation is completed by a developmental pediatrician, a pediatric neurologist, or a child psychologist or psychiatrist. This thorough review looks at a child’s behavior and development via interviews with parents as well as hands on interaction with the child. Should a child meet the diagnostic criteria, he/she will be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

Facts about Autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex neuro-developmental disorder characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior. Previously diagnosed as four different disorders (autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified [PDD-NOS]), the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has revised the diagnosis to help create a more accurate and scientific way of diagnosing individuals with autism-related disorders. Under the DSM-5 criteria, symptoms must be present from early childhood, even if they are not recognized until later.

Although ASD varies significantly in character and severity, it occurs in all ethnic and socioeconomic groups and affects every age group. ASD is almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189) and afflicts about 1 in every 68 children according to estimates from CDC's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.

Autism Indicators

Very early indicators that require evaluation by an expert include:

  • No babbling or pointing by age 1
  • No single words by 16 months or two-word phrases by age 2
  • No response to his/her name
  • Loss of language or social skills
  • Poor eye contact
  • Excessive lining up of toys or objects
  • No smiling or social responsiveness

Later indicators include:

  • Challenges with making friends
  • Challenges in initiating or sustaining a conversation with others
  • Absence or impairment of imaginative and social play
  • Stereotyped, repetitive, or unusual use of language
  • Restricted patterns of interest that are abnormal in intensity or focus
  • Preoccupation with certain objects or subjects
  • Inflexible adherence to specific routines or rituals

Early identification is critical, as it leads the way to beginning intensive behavioral intervention of applied behavior analysis. The sooner intervention can begin for a child, the better the long-term outcome.