Behavioral Foundations of Effective Autism Treatment

By Deling, Lindsay; Ferraro, F. Richard | The Psychological Record, Winter 2012 | Go to article overview

Behavioral Foundations of Effective Autism Treatment


Deling, Lindsay, Ferraro, F. Richard, The Psychological Record


MAY VILLE, E. A., & MULICK, J. A. (EDS.). (2011).

Behavioral Foundations of Effective Autism Treatment

New York: Sloan Publishing

319 pp., ISBN: 978-1-59738-027-0

As the prevalence of autism continues to rise, with one out of every 110 children receiving an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis, information on behavioral treatment continues to be in high demand (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2009). With this demand comes the increasing research literature on the behavioral treatment of autism, challenging professionals' ability to keep up with the information in this growing field. In Behavioral Foundations of Effective Autism Treatment, the reader will find not only a review of the clinical practice issues related to the application of behavioral treatment but also information on theoretical and conceptual issues related to behavior analysis. With each chapter written by well-known U.S. and international authors, this book covers a wide variety of topics related to the behavioral treatment of individuals with ASDs, including a look at autism and its treatment from a behavioral systems perspective, a review of the verbal behavior approach to autism, joint attention and its treatment, an analysis of theory of mind in individuals with ASDs, behavioral cusps and their importance to the programming of individuals with ASDs, a review of early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI) for individuals with autism, information on the behavior-analytic interventions available for adults with autism, psychopharmacology from a behavior-analytic perspective, and direct instruction's application to the classroom learning of individuals with ASDs. While this book covers many important topics, it is clearly written for professionals or students with advanced knowledge of the field of autism. Lay readers potentially will have problems keeping up with the information in this book.

The editors' goal for this book was to assist "in developing the conceptually sound and procedurally innovative behavior analysts that are so badly needed" (p. x). To achieve this goal, they organized the book into two parts: (1) theory and conceptual issues and (2) clinical practice issues. Within the initial section, the first chapter, written by the late Crighton Newsom, contains a chronological overview of the comprehensive behavior-analytic theories of autism, starting with Ferster's (1961) theory on autistic behaviors obeying the laws of learning and ending with Thompson's (2005, 2007) theory on autistic behaviors resulting from modifiable brain abnormalities. Despite all of the theorists using behavior analysis as their general theoretical approach, this chapter shows the variability of the investigators' emphases and perspectives. In Chapter 2, a developmental, multilevel, multifactor behavioral systems approach to the diagnosis, associated characteristics, and subsequent behavioral treatment of autism is presented. This chapter provides a case for using the term autisms instead of autism, as under the current diagnostic system many possible combinations of the criteria can be used to arrive at a diagnosis of autism. Using this idea, the chapter discusses the concept of multiple determinism, highlighting the position that there is no single cause of autism, but rather that autism results from a combination of multiple factors over time. The idea of equifinality is also discussed as it relates to children with heterogeneous characteristics and developmental pathways all receiving the same diagnosis of autism. In addition, equifinality is used to make an argument that EIBI may be more effective for some combination of the autisms versus others. Moreover, a good portion of this chapter presents the position that early treatment of autism should focus more heavily on the hidden deficits of stimulus overselectivity, mutually responsive orientation, joint attention, social referencing, and relational responding, as these are the behavioral cusps that will result in greater cognitive and language development. …

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