Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

A Programmatic Description of an International Private Behaviorally Orientated Autism School

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

A Programmatic Description of an International Private Behaviorally Orientated Autism School

Article excerpt


In Hong Kong, today's students diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) receive their educational intervention through the public school system. This paper describes an application of a behaviorally based model to the only privately funded autism school in Hong Kong that serves up to 70 students diagnosed with ASD. General information about the school, information about the students enrolled in the 2011 to 2012 school year, teacher recruitment, teacher training, classroom set up, curriculum, and preliminary results for the 2011 to 2012 school year will be provided. In addition, we will provide implications and recommendations for teachers and school administrators, as well as issues surrounding replicability of the school in the United States.

Key words: autism, applied behavior analysis, behavioral therapy, private school


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) results in a severe disruption of the normal developmental process (American Psychiatric Association, 2013) and leads to impairments in a student's language, play, cognitive abilities, social, adaptive functioning, and overall quality of life. Epidemiological studies conducted in the United States have current estimates that one in every 88 children will receive a diagnosis of ASD (Baio, 2012). There have been few epidemiological studies evaluating the prevalence rate of individuals diagnosed with ASD in Hong Kong; thus, it is not known what the exact prevalence of autism currently is (Sim et al., 2013). However, with the increasing prevalence rates worldwide (e.g., Elsabbagh et al., 2012), teachers, schools, and school districts can expect to continue seeing an increase in the number of students who will be identified with ASD and require an individualized education program (IEP).

Students with ASD require intensive intervention to improve their overall quality of life (e.g., Leaf, Taubman, McEachin, Leaf, & Tsuji, 2011; Lovaas, 1987). One approach commonly utilized to address deficits characterized by ASD is through procedures based on the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA). To date, behavioral analytic intervention has the strongest body of empirical support demonstrating efficacy for improving the overall quality of life for children diagnosed with ASD (e.g., Howard, Ladew, Pollack, 2009; Odom, Collet-Klingenberg, Rogers, & Hatton, 2010).

Behavioral intervention based on ABA principles has been used to increase a wide variety of behaviors, including language (e.g., Matson, Sevin, Fridley, & Love, 1990), social skills (e.g., Leaf et al., 2012), academic skills (e.g., Akmanoglu & Batu, 2004), and self-help skills (e.g., Anderson, Jablonski, Thomeer, & Knapp, 2007) for students with autism. Additionally, ABA has been shown to be effective in decreasing numerous aberrant behaviors, including aggression (e.g., Thompson, Fisher, Piazza, & Kuhn, 1998), stereotypic behaviors (e.g., Repp, Felce, & Barton, 1988), and self-injury (e.g., Mazaleski, Iwata, Vollmer, Zarcone, & Smith, 1993) for students with autism and other developmental disabilities. Although behavioral intervention for students with ASD can be implemented in home-based programs (e.g., Leaf et al., 2011), university settings (e.g., Lovaas, 1987), or community settings (e.g., Leaf et al., 2011), the setting where most students receive educational programming is public schools.

Despite the fact that public schools are now more equipped to educate students with ASD, parents still may feel dissatisfied with their child's overall educational experience for several reasons including suspension due to challenging behaviors (e.g., Parsons, Lewis, Filins, 2009), not having their child reach his or her fullest potential (e.g., Starr & Foy, 2012), or bullying (e.g., Parsons & Lewis, 2010). Parental dissatisfaction may lead to parents placing their child in private schools for ASD or private behavioral schools that serve children with ASD. …

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