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Step #7: Start Behavior Modification Therapy

Jump To:
Overview            Staffing a Home Program            Funding

Overview

Well-structured, one-on-one home programs are one of the most important aspects of your child's treatment. Studies have shown that if intensive behavioral treatment is started between the ages of 2 and 3, children have a 50% chance of (dramatic) improvement. Having said this, early intervention is key. Do not rely on traditional "special education programs offered by your school district; they do not provide the type of therapy we're about to describe. Parents may choose to fund such a program on their own, but are encouraged to obtain funding from their local school district. See the section Funding.

Although a variety of behavioral and teaching techniques exist, we recommend starting with the following and experimenting with others down the road.

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA): ABA is one of the most popular rehabilitative therapies. ABA programs introduce age- and ability-appropriate concepts in a structured, one-on-one environment. ABA is a style of teaching that uses a series of trials to produce an appropriate behavior or response. Selective "prompts are used to assist and cue the child with new or difficult tasks being introduced. ABA is also a data-based program that constantly monitors the progress of the child; recorded data serves as a precise tool in evaluating the effectiveness of the program. Conducted in the home, this program not only gives the parents control, but provides valuable exposure and involvement to the entire family.

See one of the following links for more information:

    Autism and Applied Behavioral Analysis
    The ABA Controversy

Staffing a Home Program

Resources permitting, staffing a home-based program is a relatively simple task. Parents should, however, take their time and give careful consideration to the qualifications of those being interviewed. Effective home-based programs consist of a Consultant/Program Supervisor and one or more Therapists.

The role of the Consultant/Program Supervisor:

    Initial assessment and recommendations for amount of therapy (that is, hours per week).
    Design, implementation, and supervision of the program.
    One-on-one therapy with the child.
    Training and support of the therapists and parents.
    Regular evaluation of program data and progress reports.

The role of the Therapists:

    Perform the majority of the one-on-one therapy with the child.

Although trained therapists (experienced in Behavior Modification techniques) are an obvious preference, a qualified Consultant can train a willing participate in a reasonable amount of time. Keep in mind that not everyone is "cut out for this type of work. Trainees should minimally possess an abundance of patience, personality, and enthusiasm. These skills are critical to the delivery and effectiveness of Behavior Modification techniques.

Depending on your location, staffing a home-based program can be a real challenge. Resources can be scarce, but skillful research will bear fruit. Here are a few resources available on the Internet:

    Association for Behavioral Analysis
    ABA Connections
    Institute for ABA
    ABA Educational Resources
    ABA Resources for Recovery

Also try:

    Local ABA Agencies (if any)
    Local Special Education Agencies and Organizations
    Placing want ads in your local paper

NOTE: College students make ideal therapist trainees. Try posting flyers or ads at local colleges. Click the following link for a sample flyer. The Sample Flyer is a Word document and can be saved and modified for personal use:
 
     (Click here for a Sample Flyer)

Qualifications for Consultants and Therapists:
Selecting a qualified consultant is critical to the success of your program. Experience, personality, and enthusiasm are the greatest assets of every effective consultant. Take your time; don't settle for the first person you meet. Conduct interviews with as many candidates as you can find. Criteria for therapists should be similar.

(Consultants)

    Formal education (degree) in Behavior Modification, Special Education, or Psychology
    Experience with design, implementation, and supervision of ABA programming
    Experience with developing and presenting formal progress reports to school I.E.P. meetings
    Professional presence and communication skills
    Personality and enthusiasm

(Therapists)

    Experience performing as an ABA therapist (preferred, but not require
    Some form of education in Behavior Modification, Special Education, or Psychology (preferred,

         but not required)
    Good communication skills (required)
    Personality and enthusiasm (required)

Funding: (also known as "Parents vs. The School District)

First the good news: Every state in the U.S. entitles children to the funding of special education services such as ABA. You read it right--even those already enrolled in full-time regular or special education classes. The IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Act) is a U.S. Federal Education Law that requires school districts to provide a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities. Simply stated, one-on-one Behavior Modification Programs are recognized as the most effective rehabilitative therapy available to children with autism. Unless your local school district can offer such a service (in a one-on-one environment), you are entitled to the funding to conduct such a program in your home. Additional state educational laws may also be applied, but can vary from one state to the next. You are encouraged to follow the instructions below and pursue the funding for your home-based programs.

Then the bad news: Obtaining the funding for home-based programs can be difficult. The surprise to most parents is the source of resistance. Although federal and state laws give you the green light, your local school district may be running interference. Truth be known, school district representatives are known to mislead and downright lie about your eligibility for funding. The reason? Plain old politics (that is, protecting the funds of local school budgets). It's for this reason that you need to do your homework and know your rights. Do not allow your school district to convince you that their special education programs will address all of your child's needs. Such programs are excellent companions, but they are no substitute for well-structured, one-on-one programs in Behavioral Modification.

Now the homework: The following steps require as few as 30 minutes to complete:

1) Review the following Federal Education Laws:

    IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Act)
    NCLB (No Child Left Behind)

2) Call information or go online and obtain the phone number of your State Board of Education.

3) Contact your State Board of Education. Ask to speak with someone who deals with "special education needs. Explain that your child has been diagnosed with autism and ask them to help you identify any and all state education laws "that entitle children to a free and appropriate education that suits their special needs. Make note of these laws and education codes; they will strengthen your justification when combined with federal laws such as IDEA and NCLB.

After you've done your homework, the next step is to contact your school district and present your request at an "IEP Meeting, which is the proper and required forum for such a request. An IEP (Individualized Education Program) is a plan and process that addresses the special education needs of a child. Simply contact your child's teacher or principal and request an IEP Meeting. Submit a written request for any and all of the services you seek at the meeting. Some of the more common services requested by parents with autistic children include Behavioral Modification (ABA, etc), Speech Therapy, and Occupational Therapy. (Make sure to include your formal autism diagnosis when making a request for any special services. Formal diagnosis should be used as the basis for your justification.) Your request need only be a simple paragraph stating your intentions. Make sure to include the number of hours and frequency for each service to be performed.

     (Click here for a Sample Request)

NOTE: Written communication is the only way to ensure that your request is properly documented. Without it, you may have little to stand on in the event of litigation.

The best way to start this process is to identify families already receiving funding for special services in your area (if not in the same school district). Learn the ropes from someone who's already been there. Many parents find that such parent-allies serve as one of their best justifications when negotiating their requests/demands with the school district. It's extremely difficult for any school district to deny funding for special services when another family in the same district is receiving them under the same or similar circumstances.

If your request is met with resistance, you have two options: put on your own "battle gear, or hire a legal representative to wear it for you. Not everyone is comfortable with business negotiation, especially when confrontation is likely. Keep in mind that many parents are successful at fighting this battle on their own, but legal help is available to you if you don't want to "get into the trenches. If the latter case is true for you, our suggestion is to start with an advocate. Child advocates are probably the most cost-effective way to settle this dispute. However, some cases require more fire power; if such is the case with you, consider a licensed attorney, but licensed attorneys should be your last resort. The following list of legal resources describes the legal rights previously explained and provides legal counsel and representation.

    Office of Clients Rights Advocacy
    The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates
    FindLaw
    Special Education Advocacy Resources
    Reed Martin Advocacy Strategies

NOTE: Please do not be discouraged if you encounter resistance. Simply follow the steps described above and stand your ground. The funds you seek are literally your own tax dollars. Every state has a budget for special educational needs and your child is entitled to the money, by law.



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