ABA (Lovaas)

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), also known as the Lovaas method after UCLA psychologist Dr. Ivar Lovass who originally developed it, is the most scientifically proven and effective treatment approach for Autism. ABA treatment works best when started early, preferably in the toddler & preschool years, and when applied intensively both at home and at school. The basic approach is to teach new skills by breaking them down into small steps, modeling those steps to the child, and then giving strong positive reinforcements (rewards) to encourage repetition of the behavior and eventual internalization of the skill. This modeling of small steps in a more complex skill is also sometimes called Discrete Trial Therapy, or DTT. ABA/DTT/Lovass therapy focuses on rewarding behaviors that lead to new skill acquisition, NOT on controlling or extinguishing undesirable behaviors. Undesired behaviors are ignored, not punished. No “aversive” treatments are used.

ABA therapy requires patience, training, and a LOT of one-on-one work by trained therapists. A typical program involves 30-40 hours per week of highly structured one-on-one teaching for 2 or more years. At the outset training even the simplest behaviors (e.g. “touch this” or “look at me”) can take many hours over many days or even weeks to succeed. However, as time goes on the the child learns the program, learning accelerates. This may sound difficult, but the rewards are worth it. Without ABA therapy around half of all children diagnosed with Autism at an early age end up functioning at a “mentally retarded” level, while with ABA that percentage drops to under 10%. Without ABA therapy fewer than 5% of children originally diagnosed with Autism end up with “normal functioning” (meaning they can be placed in a regular classroom with special supports or assistance eventually). ABA increases that percentage to nearly 50%. No other treatment program for Autism/PDD can boast those kind of results.

For more information about ABA resources in Massachusetts try the following contacts:

The Autism Partnership for ABA (TAP)
Email: MASSTAP@prodigy.com
(Please note this organization has no paid staff, so you may need to leave a message on a machine and someone will get back to you. They are a good source of referrals to parents in your area with ABA programs up and running in their homes, and they also sponsor monthly meetings.)

CMS Associates
Mashpee, MA.
(Parent Support & Advocacy)

The May Center for Early Childhood Education
Arlington, MA.
(home & school based programs)

The New England Center for Children
Southborough, MA
(home & school based programs)

Families for Early Autism Treatment (FEAT)