Understanding Health and Behavioral Challenges
What Are Evidence-Based Practices?
Evidence-Based Practices refers to educational methods that have been rigorously vetted through scientific research and are proven effective. Both the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) advocate for the use of such methods, as long as they are backed by credible scientific data. Importantly, the application of these practices is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It varies considerably depending on the individual child’s needs. As such, parents or guardians should collaborate closely with specialists to determine the best educational strategies tailored for their child.
Behavioral Approaches operate on the premise that our environment influences our actions. This approach focuses on keenly observing how children interact with their surroundings, with the aim of guiding them toward positive behaviors. Therapists implementing this method continuously monitor the child’s behavior. If the desired positive changes are not observed, they adapt their strategies to better suit the child’s specific needs rather than sticking with a static plan.
- Applied Behavior Analysis(ABA) aims to encourage positive behaviors, especially in children on the autism spectrum, through the use of rewards. One specific technique within ABA is Discrete Trial Training (DTT). In DTT, children are methodically guided through tasks, receiving small rewards like stickers or toys for successful completion. This serves to reinforce positive behaviors. Additionally, there are flexible forms of ABA designed to adapt in real-time to a child’s responses, making the treatment even more personalized.
- Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) focuses on nurturing pivotal skills like motivation, responsiveness to environmental cues, self-management, and social interactions. To keep children engaged, this method uses rewards that already interest them when they accomplish new tasks. Notably, both effort and success are rewarded, which bolsters the child’s enthusiasm for continued learning.
- Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) is a behavioral approach designed for young children with autism, aged 12 to 48 months. The program seeks to enhance language, social, and cognitive skills through a combination of play and routine activities. It involves a collaborative effort from a specialized team that usually includes a therapist, early intervention staff, and the child’s parents.
TEACCH® Autism Program, originating at the University of North Carolina in the 1960s and now globally implemented, aims to improve a child’s focus and communication skills using visual aids and structured layouts. The program operates on four foundational principles:
- Physical organization: The program employs furniture, partitions, and tape to clearly delineate specific areas, providing children with an easy-to-understand visual guide to the purpose and function of each space.
- Individualized schedules: Customized timetables offer children a predictable framework, enhancing their sense of security by clearly indicating what activities will occur next.
- Work/Activity systems: These systems visually map out the tasks to be done, the amount of work required, and the sequence in which activities should occur. For example, a child might be instructed to solve problems from a worksheet in a basket on the left and then place the completed worksheet in a basket on the right.
- Visual structure of materials in tasks and activities: The program breaks down each task into individual steps, displayed visually, often using pictures or images. This methodical arrangement helps children comprehend and execute the tasks in sequence more effectively.
Video Modeling uses video footage to teach specific skills or behaviors. The end goal is for the individual to be able to complete these tasks independently, without the need for ongoing video support. The method offers four distinct types of video-based instruction:
- Basic Video Modeling: This type uses videos that feature either an adult, a peer, or an animated character performing a task. The individual watches and learns from these demonstrations.
- Video Self-Modeling: In this approach, the individual themselves is filmed performing the task. They then watch this footage to reinforce the learning.
- Point of View Modeling: Here, the camera captures the action from the learner’s perspective, offering a first-person view of the task being performed.
- Video Prompting: This type breaks down a task into smaller steps, each filmed separately. The learner watches one segment, performs that part of the task in real life, and then moves on to the next video segment.
Visual Support refers to the use of symbols, pictures, words, or objects to convey information. While commonly used for individuals on the autism spectrum, this method is also beneficial for children with developmental delays or those learning a new language. A notable example of this is a visual schedule, which outlines the sequence of daily activities, such as morning routines or after-school tasks, as well as specific actions like washing hands, eating, or going out, all depicted through images. This approach not only assists children in comprehending information and grasping language, but it also enhances their ability to effectively engage with their surroundings.
Occupational Therapy (OT)
Occupational Therapy (OT) helps improve a child’s quality of life across multiple settings—school, social interactions, and daily activities like eating and dressing. Therapists work with families to tailor a program suited to the child’s unique needs. For example, if sensory overload or emotional regulation is a challenge, specific techniques are employed to make daily life more manageable.
Speech Therapy starts a comprehensive assessment by a speech-language pathologist (SLP), Speech Therapy encompasses both non-verbal cues, such as gestures and facial expressions, and verbal skills like pronunciation and vocalization. The therapy offers a multifaceted approach to help the child articulate thoughts more clearly and interact more effectively in various social settings.