Saturday, April 11, 2009

Applied Behavior Analysis to Treat Toddlers With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Here is my poster presented at EPA.
These are results from the first year at Hand In Hand Development, Inc.

Applied Behavior Analysis to Treat Toddlers With Autism Spectrum Disorder


Applied Behavior Analysis can successfully be used to treat children below 3 years with a diagnosis of Autistic Disorder, PDDNOS or related behavior disorders. Analyses of data from 93 children who received an average of nine months of treatment with Applied Behavior Analysis showed that most of the children improved on a majority of the 9 Scales of the ABLLS-R. Further results indicated that treatment beginning at a younger age was most successful.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) has been an accepted form of behavioral treatment for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (Anderson S.R. & Romanczyk, 1999).
Furthermore, ABA has been effective in treating ASD in children aged over 3.
However, early intervention for children 3 and under has had limited empirical evidence.
The present study aims at clarifying how toddlers respond to a center-based ABA program for 2½ hours per day, 5 days a week.


Toddlers were evaluated by licensed psychologists who determined eligibility for EI, Center-based ABA & ASD diagnosis
31 toddlers placed in a center-based ABA program completed an average of 8.86 months.
Toddlers were evaluated with ABLLS-R (Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills – Revised) pre & post treatment.
Toddlers were instructed in their own language: Chinese (42%) [Cantonese/Mandarin], Spanish(19%) English(32%), Other(3%).Requests


All students increased on all 9 ABLLS-R scales
Average group increase for ABLLS-R scales was statistically significant
High initial Imitation predicted high labeling and intraverbals
Improvement in Imitation predicted high Receptive language and Requests
Children >36 months increased more than children <34 months
Only true for 9 scales
Receptive language


Results indicate that 12.5 hours/ week of center-based ABA for toddlers aged 3 and under is successful in treating ASD, according to ABBLS-R scoring.
Further longitudinal study is warranted in order to track how early intervention affects toddlers in the long term (i.e. does ABA experience in Early Intervention services permit the child to be in inclusion classes?).


Anderson, S.R. & Romanczyk (1999). Early intervention for young children with Autism: Continuum-Based Behavioral Models

Peter Vietze1,2,3, Alayna B. Berkowitz1, Kimberly K. Kamhi2,3, Leah Esther Lax2,3,

Elizabeth A. Diviney2,3, Marissa Lynn Brodzicki1, Amy Lancaster1

1Montclair State University, 2Hand in Hand Development, 3CARES

Travis Thompson's Talk at Eastern Psychological Association, March, 2009, Pittsburgh

II hadn't seen or had contact with Travis in several years, so I was very eager to hear his talk. This year he delivered the FRED KELLER DISTINGUISHED LECTURE. His title was AUTISM: BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS, NEUROSCIENCE & GENETICS. The abstract in the program read:

"Autism subtypes are differentially amenable to significant improvements through behavioral
intervention. Intensive Early Behavior Therapy based on principles of applied behavior analysis, enables approximately half of children with autism to function similar to their peers. Growing evidence implicates defects in synaptogenesis as one cause of autism. Activity-dependent genes appear to be activated through intensive engagement of brain structures known to be dysfunctional in autism, resulting inincreased synapse formation."

We were able to chat briefly before and after and catch up on personal news. I also got links to Travis' website:

and his Blog:

Lots of great information on both of these.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Does your toddler have these signs? How to tell if your child should have a psychological evaluation.

  1. Poor or no Language: Starts talking later than other children. Failure to express or understand language. No gestures or pointing. Stops saying words once said. Repeats words you say. Acts like he or she doesn't hear what you say. Does not make eye contact when making requests. Speaks with an abnormal tone or rhythm — may use a singsong voice or robot-like speech
  2. Poor Social Skills: No eye contact or inconsistent eye content. Avoidance of people especially other children. Likes to play alone. Doesn't cuddle or hug. Doesn't respond to his or her name. Appears not to hear you at time. Appears unaware of others' feelings. Retreats into his or her "own world"
  3. Unusual or Repetitive Behavior: Performs repetitive activities such as rocking body, spinning around, flapping hands, hitting self, hitting head against wall or floor. Lines up toys or objects and gets upset if someone changes the arrangement. Unusual interest in parts of toys or objects (for example spins wheels on vehicles). Develops specific routines or rituals. Becomes upset at the slightest change in routines or rituals. Moves constantly. May be fascinated by parts of an object, such as the spinning wheels of a toy car. Shows unusual sensitivity to light, sound or touch but is oblivious to pain.
If your child has symptoms in 2 or 3 of these categories, go to the following link and call the number closest to where you live. Tell the person who answers that you would like to have your child evaluated.