Northwest Indiana Families for Effective Autism Treatment - IN FEAT

Treatment Options

The information and resources on the Northwest Indiana Families for Effective Autism Treatment (INFEAT) Website (The Site) are for educational and informational purposes only. Information provided through The Site should not be used as a substitute for care by a qualified Developmental Pediatrician, Pediatric Neurologist, Behavioral Psychologist, Behavior Analyst, Speech and Language Pathologist, Attorney, or other appropriate professional.


Currently, there is no known cause or cure for autism; however, extensive research has indicated the possibility of a biomedical causation in individuals with certain genetic predispositions. We believe that early, intensive behavioral intervention, combined with professional, individualized biological treatment, offers these children and their families a promising future. Today, many children with autism are achieving goals that even a few years ago were believed to be unattainable!


Behavioral Treatment Options

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

ABA is a method of changing, or improving, the behavior of an individual (in our cases, children with autism). It is also an effective method of instruction. ABA capitalizes on rewarding appropriate behavior and extinguishing negative behavior.

Operant Conditioning is the cornerstone of ABA. Simply defined, operant conditioning states: the likelihood a behavior will occur in the future is based on the immediate consequence of that behavior. B. F. Skinner is widely known as the father of operant conditioning.

In 1957, B.F. Skinner wrote the book Verbal Behavior. In it, Skinner broke down communication, what he termed "verbal behavior", into functional groups called "verbal operants" (mands, tacts, and intraverbals). Furthermore, he outlined the principles of behavior, including: reinforcement, prompting, fading of prompts, shaping, etc.). By doing so, he was able to show how language is acquired through operant conditioning. In other words, we learn and shape our language as a result of the behavior of those around us.

In the 1960's, a doctor by the name of O. Ivar Lovaas began an intensive program with autistic children at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). He combined the principles of ABA with his own curriculum to teach these children. Based on his research and work, he wrote "The Me Book." Lovaas was the first to apply ABA to children with autism, and his contributions to the field are invaluable. However, Dr. Lovaas did not employ Skinner's analysis of verbal behavior, and this is a great detriment to his recommended method of treatment.

In 1998, Drs. Mark Sundberg and James Partington wrote "Teaching Language to Children with Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities." Drs. Sundberg and Partington, among others, took Dr. Skinner's studies of language and applied the science to teaching children with autism. The result was a teaching methodology now known as Applied Verbal Behavior (AVB). With their book, and its accompanying evaluation (The ABLLS), Sundberg and Partington created an effective and user friendly method for utilizing the principles of ABA for teaching children with autism and other developmental disabilities to communicate.

In summation, a Verbal Behavior practitioner applies the principles of ABA and uses Skinner's analysis of language to effectively teach communication and appropriate behavior.

View The Surgeon General's Report (1999) supporting the efficacy of applied behavioral methods in treating Autism.

Click here to visit our ABA/AVB Links page
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