Treating Autism

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Five years from now, I think I will still remember learning about how autism symptoms can be completely eliminated from children through the use of operant conditioning. The concept of operant conditioning seems very basic and intuitive, but the fact that it can be used to transform severely autistic children into normally functioning children is amazing. The treatment works like this: normal behaviors, such as talking, sitting still, making eye contact, and grooming oneself are reinforced with a reward in the form of something the child likes. Behaviors characteristic of autism, such as throwing tantrums, self-stimulation, and repetitive movements are ignored and not rewarded, eventually leading to their extinguishment.

This kind of treatment, pioneered by Ivar Lovaas in 1987, is called applied behavior analysis (ABA). In the original study, a group of children received 40 hours of intense ABA therapy per week and were followed up years later when they were in high school. The children were indistinguishable from their peers, and some of them were even in advanced classes and were planning on attending college. This most likely would not have been possible had they not gone through the treatment program. The fact that ABA is still used today as a form of therapy shows how successful the treatment has been. Here are just a few companies that advertise ABA treatment: AIM, Maximum Potential Kids, and Maxim Healthcare Services.


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I do find this interesting and that they have been able to make breakthroughs through such an easy concept. It is something that I feel like I have been learning all my life. I hope that someday they enhance this system for treating autism behaviors. This is something that could potentially really make an impact on the world if there were more people capable of treating kids with autism. There is just such a low supply with the larger demand.

I think it is so cool that we have come so far in society that we can help with autistic children. I hope that one day we enhance this system even more to completely cure these symptoms. With my moms best friend having a son with autism, I have grown up around it for majority of my life. I loved to shoot basketball with him, or more importantly anything to make him smile.

I think it is unbelievable that we can use something as simple as operant conditioning to treat such a complicated disorder. This makes me wonder what other mental disorders can be treated using operant conditioning, or even classical conditioning for that matter. I am really hoping that this is going to be expanded and used more frequently in treating autism.

I find it amazing that knowledge has progressed to this point. I always heard stories from my Grandpa about the issues his cousin who was autistic went through, and he would probably be amazed that a concept like operant conditioning would have been able to help his cousin out so much.

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This page contains a single entry by somor003 published on April 29, 2012 11:27 AM.

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