Why use ABA?
The following paragraphs are excerpts from chapter 3 of the Maurice, Green, and Luce book “Behavioral Interventions for Young Children with Autism, 1996.”
Historically most people with autism have required extensive treatment and supports throughout their lives (Rapin, 1991; Remlin, 1994; Rutter, 1970; Rutter and Schopler, 1987; Szatmari et al., 1989). Today the mainstream position is that autism is a "severely incapacitating lifelong developmental disability." It is considered treatable; indeed, a wide variety of treatments, therapies, and techniques are claimed to help (or even cure) people with autism and new ones are invented regularly (Autism Society of America, 1995).
Until recently, however, none of those treatments has offered any solid, realistic basis for changing the view that autism is a permanent disability. Several studies have now shown that one treatment approach - early, intensive instruction using the methods of Applied Behavior Analysis - can result in dramatic improvements for children with autism: successful integration in regular schools for many, completely normal functioning for some (Anderson, Avery, DiPietro, Edwards, and Christian, 1987; Birnbrauer and Leach, 1993; Fenske, Zalenski, Krantz, McClannahan, 1985; Harris, Handleman, Gordon, Kristoff, and Fuentes, 1991; Lovaas, 1987; Maurice, 1993; McEachin, Smith, and Lovaas, 1993; Perry, Cohen, and DeCarlo, 1995; Sheinkopf and Siegel, in press). In fact, there is abundance scientific evidence that applied behavior analysis methods can produce comprehensive and lasting improvements in many important skill areas for most people with autism, regardless of their age. No other treatment for autism offers comparable evidence of effectiveness (Lovaas and Smith, 1989; Schreibman, 1988; Shreibman, Charlop and Milstein, 1993; Smith, 1993).
There is little doubt that early intervention based on the principles and practices of applied behavior analysis can produce large, comprehensive, lasting and meaningful improvements in many important domains for a large proportion of children with autism. For some, those improvements can amount to achievement of completely normal intellectual, social, academic, communicative, and adaptive functioning. In fact, a large majority of young children with autism benefit from early behavioral intervention. Most show substantial improvements in many adaptive, useful skill areas and reduction in problematic behaviors. Only a small portion (about 10% of those studied so far) have been found to make few or no improvements despite intensive efforts (e.g. Anderson, et al., 1987; Birnbrauer and Leach, 1993; Lovaas, 1987; McEachin et al., 1993; Sheinkopf and Siegel, in press).
There is strong evidence that behavioral intervention is more effective for young children with autism than no intervention, and more effective than typical early education services and assorted other therapies.