Common Terms and Frequently Asked Questions About Autism Diagnosis and Treatment
If you’re interested in learning more about early intervention with our Outpatient Services, ABA treatment options, or Intensive (Residential) Treatment, please take a moment to look through our frequently asked questions below. If you don’t find the question you’re looking for, please give us a call or reach out to us via our contact page.
Applied Behavior Analysis
How common is autism?
According to the estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network about 1 in 36 children has been identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Additionally, ASD is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, and is nearly 4 times more common among boys than among girls.1
What is autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?
ASD is characterized by varying degrees of difficulty in social interaction and verbal and nonverbal communication, and the presence of repetitive behavior and restricted interests. This means that no two individuals with an ASD diagnosis are the same with respect to how the disorder manifests. However, the severity of the disorder is a reality for all individuals with this diagnosis and their families. Because of the nature of the disability, people with ASD will often not achieve the ability to function independently without appropriate medically necessary treatment.
What causes autism? What are some signs that my child may have autism?
What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)?
ABA is the design, implementation, and evaluation of environmental modifications to produce socially significant improvement in human behavior. ABA includes the use of direct observation, measurement, and functional analysis of the relations between environment and behavior. ABA uses changes in environmental events, including antecedent stimuli and consequences, to produce practical and significant changes in behavior. These relevant environmental events are usually identified through a variety of specialized assessment methods. ABA is based on the fact that an individual’s behavior is determined by past and current environmental events in conjunction with organic variables such as their genetic endowment and ongoing physiological variables. ABA focuses on treating behavioral difficulties by changing the individual’s environment rather than focusing on variables that are, at least presently, beyond our direct access. ABA provides evidenced based techniques and strategies that are targeted to increasing developmental skills in communication, higher cognitive functions, social interaction learning readiness, play and motor skills, self-management, and daily living skills.
The successful remediation of core deficits of ASD, and the development or restoration of abilities, documented in hundreds of peer-reviewed studies published over the past 50 years has made ABA the standard of care for the treatment of ASD (Behavior Analyst Certification Board, Inc. 2012).
What does ABA look like for people with autism?
ABA is often prescribed for people with autism and can be provided in schools, homes, clinics and community settings. ABA is based on the science of behavior. It is individualized based on the autistic person’s strengths and the challenges they experience.
ABA providers are called Behavior Analysts. Like other medical and behavioral health providers, Behavior Analysts rely upon strategies and procedures from peer-reviewed research. They continually evaluate and customize treatment options based on the needs of the autistic person.
Behavior Analysts request and integrate the information from the autistic person and their caregivers and coordinate care with other professionals who serve the autistic person.
The oldest and largest national certification board in ABA is the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). BACB certification can help identify qualified ABA providers.3
Does ABA acknowledge the differences that make a person with autism unique?
Yes, ABA providers work with the person with autism and their circle of support to learn what is important to them over different points in time.
- for a toddler, this may be learning to speak or point.
- for a tween, this could be learning how to safely walk in a parking lot or take turns playing video games with peers.
- for a teenager, this could be learning how to navigate social media or practicing healthful hygiene.
ABA providers celebrate each autistic person’s unique identity and personality and incorporate person preferences throughout treatment.3
Is the goal of ABA to make a person "normal?"
No. Safety, dignity, and personal preference are essential components of any ABA program. ABA providers work directly with people with autism to choose meaningful goals. For example, ABA therapists implement programs that can help create awareness of existing societal expectations so that they can make informed choices.3
Do ABA providers allow clients to make choices?
Yes. Choice is an essential part of an ABA program. Providers incorporate choice throughout the treatment process. This begins at intake when autistic people and caregivers work with providers to set goals that are important to them. The incorporation of choice is continually evaluated throughout treatment.3
Has ABA changed over time?
Yes. All science-based health care professions are constantly evolving. ABA is just over a half-century old and its evolving research findings have increasingly allowed providers to provide more personalized and effective services.3
Do behavior analysts consider the reasons why a behavior might be happening?
Yes. ABA providers very deliberately consider why clients behave the way they do. An entire methodology known as functional behavior assessment is designed around this basic idea. These reasons are expected to be incorporated into treatment to ensure needs, wants, and preferences are being met.3
What are the steps to getting my child Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services for Autism Spectrum Disorder?
A description of a RESPONSE in terms of the Antecedent (A), Behavior (B), and consequence (C) of the response.
* Antecedent is the stimulus that immediately precedes the behavior.
* Behavior is a description of the response in terms of its topography.
* Consequence is the immediate outcome of the behavior.2
EIBI (Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention)
Consists of 20–40 hours per week of individualized instruction for children with autism who begin treatment at the age of four years or younger and who usually continue for 2 to 3 years.2
Includes a variety of tools used to determine the function of behavior, such as collecting ABC data of live events, or completing an interview with caretakers.2
I.E.P. (Individualized Education Program)
Document listing specific educational goals and objectives for the child and describes the educational services that will best achieve them.2
Refers to teaching that “takes advantage” of naturally occurring opportunities to teach, often with student-initiated activities. In clinical usage, this is often used when discussing generalized training, with skills being practiced with stimuli “accidentally” encountered in generalized settings (actually pre-arranged conditions). Note: incidental teaching is when the child initiates the interaction, not the clinician.2
P.E.C.S. (Picture Exchange Communication System)
A system for communication for children who do not yet use vocal communication, in which a child exchanges a picture to ask for something he/she wants or to make comments about things in his/her environment.2
Person Centered Planning
An approach to program and placement construction wherein the student is an active participant in designing the program.2
DTT (Discrete Trial Teaching)
Three term contingency (Antecedent–Behavior–Consequence) relationship as applied to teaching new skills, where each trial is a separate attempt to teach a new behavior or reinforce a previously learned behavior. Example: The person working with the child asks the student to select a toy and the child selects a toy.
Intensive Residential Treatment Program
What is the Intensive (Residential) Treatment Program?
The Great Lakes Center for Autism Treatment and Research (GLC) is a division of Residential Opportunities, Inc. The Intensive Treatment (Residential) program is licensed as a child caring institution by the State of Michigan. It is designed to provide intensive behavior interventions for children with significant behavioral challenges.
For more information Click Here.
Who does the Intensive Treatment Program serve?
Children diagnosed with autism and/or other developmental disabilities ages 6 to 17 years with severe behavior problems who pose a serious risk of causing harm to themselves or others.
How long will my child stay at the center in the Intensive Treatment Program?
Our goal is for your child to move back home as soon as possible. We use each child’s advancement towards his/her individualized treatment goals as a guide in determining when a child is ready to transition home. A typical stay can last between 8 and 24 months.
Will I be able to visit my child while they're in the Intensive Treatment Program?
Yes, we encourage families to visit and partake in the treatment process. To ensure treatment consistency we discourage off-site visitations.
How will the gains made during the Intensive Treatment Program be maintained after my child leaves the GLC?
During the child’s stay at our center, our staff work with the child’s primary care providers (parents, legal guardian, and when appropriate area health personnel who will be working with the child) in acquiring the knowledge/skills associated with the child’s individualized behavior plan. This training takes place throughout the child’s stay and is a key component of treatment. Following a transition home, GLC is available to continue services on an outpatient bases to help ensure consistency and success
What resources do I have if my child doesn’t qualify for Intensive Residential Services at GLC?
You can begin or continue to advocate for services at the Community Mental Health Agency where you reside. You can seek outpatient applied behavior analysis providers in your area. You can discuss opportunities with the school district where your child receives educational services.
The Michigan Autism Council – free web-based information and training resources for families and providers.
Does the center provide physical, occupational, or speech therapy service?
GLC provides treatment based on Applied Behavior Analysis. Your child may receive other therapies outside of GLC. Talk to your clinician about collaboration with other therapy goals.
How much parent involvement is involved in ABA therapy?
Parents/caregivers are required to participate in parent training sessions that will involve observations, training with a clinician, and practice implementing programs with your child at the center. Additional observations can always be arranged through your clinician.
Does GLC provide diagnostic testing (determine if child has autism)?
Yes, GLC is able to complete diagnostic evaluations depending on insurance. Please note that GLC is not an Approved Autism Evaluation Center for Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Is a diagnosis of Autism required before a child can receive applied behavior analysis services?
Applied Behavior Analysis therapy is available for all children. Currently, for insurance companies to cover ABA services, a diagnosis of autism is required. Insurance companies, including both commercial and Medicaid, may require the diagnosis be given from a specific provider/center.
If a child receives the diagnosis of autism and the parent/guardian would like to have their child receive ABA, GLC is an ABA provider for children 18 months – 20 years (depending on the insurance). Insurance coverage for ABA is not universally covered and varies depending on the specific insurance policy.*
Please call Great Lakes Center for Autism Treatment and Research (GLC) at 269-250-8200 for details.
*Please note that deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses vary and are the responsibility of the parent/guardian.
Who does the Outpatient Program serve?
The outpatient program serves children from the earliest diagnosis through 20 years who have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities.
What are the steps to getting my child Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services for Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Will my private insurance cover the Outpatient Program treatment costs?
Coverage of the cost of treatment as well the amount of services depends on the subscriber’s policy and will be dictated by the insurance company. For detailed information, please call customer inquiry at the phone number listed on the back of your insurance card.
Will Medicaid cover the Outpatient Program treatment costs?
ABA treatment may be covered up through age 20. The insurance will dictate the amount of service the individual receives.
Please call GLC at (269) 250-8200 for details.
Does GLC offer any financial assistance?
GLC awards scholarships for children receiving outpatient center-based services on a quarterly basis. The amount of funding available for those scholarships is dependent on funds raised by donations the previous year. For more information on GLC scholarships and to fill out an application click here to download the letter and here for the application.
When do Outpatient Program sessions take place?
Session blocks are Monday-Friday 9:00AM – 12:00PM, 1:00PM – 4:00PM, and 4:30PM – 6:30PM. Saturday sessions are 9:00AM – 1:00PM. Full day sessions are 9:00AM – 4:00PM. Session availability varies by location and by staff availability.
What is the time commitment for the Outpatient Program?
ABA is an intensive therapy that is designed to help children catch up in their areas of deficit. A child will typically have 3-5 sessions of ABA each week. These sessions will vary in length based on the intensity of the program designed for your child.
What does a skill acquisition session look like?
A session is anywhere from 2 to 6 hours long and will take place in a treatment room or playroom with a behavior technician. The Applied Behavior Analysis Tutor will implement the teaching programs and provide extra learning opportunities during break times. Snacks and toys are provided to the children as rewards. Many of the teaching objectives are designed so that the children don’t realize they are learning, just playing!
Are parents allowed to observe Outpatient Program sessions?
Parents are not only encouraged to observe sessions but to actively participate in the sessions. We understand that children spend significant portions of their days with their parents and we encourage parent training opportunities so that your child may learn to generalize his/her skills to other environments. Sometimes however, parents can be distractions and until your child learns to work through the distractions, we may ask that you watch the sessions through our observation window.
How long will my child need this Outpatient Program treatment?
This answer will depend on your child and his own individual needs. Some children receive treatment for only a few months while other receive treatment for years. Our goal at Great Lakes Center for Autism Treatment and Research is to help the child learn in the least restrictive environment, so when our children demonstrate that they are able to learn new skills in a classroom setting or they demonstrate that they can maintain appropriate behaviors in groups with peers, we begin the transition to discharge.
Outpatient Service Technician
A trained individual responsible for directly implementing the treatment plan specified and supervised by the BCBA in an outpatient setting.
BCBA-D (Board Certified Behavior Analyst – Doctoral)
A person who is actively certified as a BCBA; and has earned a doctorate degree in applied behavior analysis or one approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). Please see www.bacb.com/ for details.
BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst)
A person having completed a prerequisite number of hours of University-level course work in the science of behavior, completing an internship under the supervision of a BCBA and passing the required written examination. Please see www.bacb.com/ for details.
BCaBA (Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst)
A person having a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in behavior analysis or one approved by the BACB. The BCaBA works under the supervision of a BCBA-D or BCBA. Please see www.bacb.com/ for details.
Intensive Residential Technician
A trained individual responsible for directly implementing the treatment plan specified and supervised by the BCBA in the licensed intensive residential treatment setting.
Behavior treatment plan
A written description outlining how relevant individuals in a client’s environment should respond if a given target behavior occurs, or if a given target behavior does not occur.2
Qualified Behavior Health Professional (QBHP)
A person who has completed at least a Master’s degree and is actively working on becoming certified as a behavior analyst. A QBHP oversees programs under the supervision of a BCBA or BCBA-D who is certified to provide supervision.
Skill Building Technician
A trained individual responsible for directly implementing the treatment plan specified and supervised by the BCBA in the Elaine Avenue Program (licensed residential step-down program).