Where to find science-based treatments for autism? I have three letters for you

In a previous post, I warned readers about pseudoscientific treatments for autism (of which there are many, as a quick Google search will tell you). What I did not do at that point was tell you about which treatments are well suited for this population. The use of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for individuals with autism has been endorsed by the United States Surgeon General. In fact, the Surgeon General stated, “Thirty years of research demonstrated the efficacy of applied behavioral methods in reducing inappropriate behavior and in increasing communication, learning, and appropriate social behavior.

What is ABA?

ABA is the application of behavioral science to identify and address behavioral deficits or excesses in individuals or groups. The focus lies in identifying environmental variables that influence undesirable behaviors or prevent the development of adaptive behaviors and implementing strategies to modify the environment to produce positive, socially significant changes in the individual’s life. For more information about ABA, you can go here or here for more information and resources.

Although the science of behavior has applications in many fields (e.g., organizational behavior management), the application to the treatment of individuals with autism is the most widely known.

Who can implement ABA?

It is important to note that only individuals properly trained and certified as behavior analysts are able to provide ABA services. The BACB certification guarantees that individuals have received proper training and supervised experience to implement treatments appropriately and safely. You wouldn’t want someone who’d only read a couple of books on anatomy to be your surgeon, right? Similarly, you should not receive specialized behavioral interventions from someone who has not demonstrated certain level of proficiency.

This can be a limiting factor for many seeking services for their child with autism. You may live in a part of world where there are no certified behavior analysts or where these services are deemed experimental or not medically necessary.

Writing these lines from Florida, where ABA services are widely available (with over 3,400 BCBAs), we might take for granted the ready access to ABA services. This, however, is not the case in many places. The vast majority of Board Certified Behavior Analysts reside in the US — there are close to 32,000 BCBAs worldwide and 29,295 of those are in the US.

In the coming weeks, colleagues from around the world will be sharing their perspectives on autism treatment and ABA. Stay tuned and let me know if you’d like to hear or send stories from different parts of the world. Please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.





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