Autism is one of the most commonly diagnosed learning disorders in children, yet it is one that schools most often fail to address or properly treat. In fact, many schools seem to treat autistic children as though they are incapacitated of learning and treat negative behavior patterns as though the children themselves are simply “bad”. The truth of the matter is that children with autism learn much differently than other children, and these skills and behaviors must be taught differently. Applied Behavior Analysis therapy is an excellent tool that school systems can use to help teach autistic children.
One of the most important tools in ABA therapy is the prompt. Prompts are used to help encourage a child to produce a certain response or to engage in a certain behavior. Because concepts and behaviors must be broken down into smaller steps and learned repeatedly, prompts are an excellent tool in helping children to learn to mimic and eventually initiate these behaviors. Over time, prompting is reduced and ever eliminated and the child will be able to provide the answer, behavior, or response without the need to be prompted. This is a very helpful tool for educators with autistic students.
Prompts can be verbal, such as giving a child a particular answer or a certain command, but they can be nonverbal as well. Guiding a child to make a certain gesture or response or offering a visual cue can often be the proper method of prompting in order to initiate a certain response. In many cases, performing the desired behavior can also encourage imitation and can help those children who learn by mimicking to perform certain tasks. Whatever the type of prompting used, however, studies show that ABA and prompting can be highly effective teaching tools.
There is no doubt that ABA therapy works for students. The problem for most school systems, however, is funding. Sending even a competent of educators to training seminars can be too costly for many school systems to afford. For these systems, it is important to recognize that there are affordable options available. A DVD course with training materials can be highly affordable for virtually any school system and can make it easy for systems to provide educators with the training that they need. Autistic children are often highly capable of learning within a standard classroom, and implementing ABA therapy as soon as possible can help ensure that they are afforded that opportunity.