Autism – Early Intervention

Early Intensive Intervention Program for K and PP students with high functioning autism

Background

In 2008 our Centre opened an  Early Intensive Intervention Program for Kindy and Pre-Primary students with autism.  Our expert team who work in the program have been involved in intensive and ongoing training and professional development to enhance skills and knowledge in this area.  To access this program, a potential student must have a recognised diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and be public school students (not aiming at private or catholic schools). The Department of Education’s emphasis for this program is very much on high functioning, generally verbal students who will be best served by mainstream classes from Year 1.

Applied behaviour analysis (ABA) focuses on teaching small, measurable units of behaviour in a very systematic way, called discrete trial training (DTT), initially with physical, verbal or visual prompts.  A task is broken down into small steps and taught in a one on one situation.  Teaching trials are repeated many times, initially in rapid succession, until the student learns the correct response readily without prompts.  To maximise a child’s success, emerging skills are practised and reinforced in many less structured situations (generalised) e.g. group activities in class, on excursions, and at home.  Parent involvement and acceptance of the program is therefore essential for success.  The majority of parents of children in this program have external agencies providing additional ABA therapy for their children.  We encourage potential parents to visit and watch the program in action to see if it is, indeed, what they want for their child.

Have a look HERE for more on Applied Behaviour Analysis.

At Mount Hawthorn ESC, we have gradually evolved over the past few years so that our program now takes into consideration the Ziggurat Model (Aspy & Grossman, 2008) and the SCERTS Model (Prizant et al. 2006) which both place an emphasis on emotional regulation as the first issue to be dealt with before learning can take place.  Our aim is for students to enjoy being in the classroom first and then move on to learning.

This accelerated learning program is specifically designed for students who will very probably be working at mainstream level later on, that is they are already somewhat verbal, can have their attention captured easily, can show a reasonable degree of joint attention and do not have severe needs or an intellectual disability.  Applications for the program are taken the year before intake. However, there is sometimes a space later on if a student leaves.  Please inquire at any stage to find out if we have space.

The Learning Program

The main focuses of our program (besides basic academic skills) are:

  • Communication
  • Behaviour
  • Social skills

Explicit teaching sessions are based on the principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis which incorporate Discrete Trial Training.

Applied Behaviour Analysis is based on the principle that the future occurrence of behaviour is dependent on the consequences and antecedents to that behaviour.

Applied Behaviour Analysis is an intensive, highly structured teaching program which teaches skills sequentially and in a clear, consistent manner. Skills are broken down into simple segments, guided by the child’s learning pattern and current level of functioning, they are then chained together. This ensures success at each level, progressing to independent, generalised learning. Positive reinforcement is a key component of Applied Behaviour Analysis programs.

The Hallmarks of the Applied Behaviour Analysis Approach:

  1. Clear understanding of the specific behaviour to be changed.
  2. Careful measurement of the behaviour.
  3. Excellent timing of the response.
  4. Analysis of data.
  5. Structured, analytical training.
  6. Consistency.

Discrete Trial Training is a component of Applied Behaviour Analysis. It is a behaviourist approach to learning. It is discrete in that it recognises a distinct sequence of components within each trial, which are outlined below:

A – (Antecedent) – The antecedent is the event that precedes the behaviour. It includes   the instruction (SD) and any form of prompting given before the student is expected to respond.

B – (Behaviour) – The behaviour is what the student does in response to the instruction (i.e. correct, incorrect, or no response given).

C – (Consequence) – The consequence is what occurs after the behaviour. Consequences can be positive, negative, or neutral.

This behavioural approach states that behaviours that are followed by positive consequences will increase in frequency and behaviours that are followed by either negative consequences or no consequences will decrease in their frequency. Discrete Trial Training is based on this approach.

  • A major focus is on the areas of communication, social skills, and behaviour development.
  • Visual support systems are utilised.
  • An emphasis is placed on consistent intervention, generalisation of skills, and developing flexibility in students.

In addition to the discrete trial training, group work sessions are scheduled throughout the day, such as round table, fine motor sessions, physical education and mat time.  Students also have a break for lunch and playtime in the main playground on the equipment.

We are able to accommodate 4-6 students in the Kindy and 4-6 in the Pre Primary program.  Students are initially tested using a baseline of skills and individual programs are subsequently developed.  This procedure allows students to progress at their own speeds and on objectives relevant to them and we work on behavioural as well as academic objectives.  The aim of the Program is, ideally, to allow students access to mainstream Year 1 classes.