Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is one of the most common forms of therapy for autistic children but its coming under increasing pressure from Developmental, Individual-difference, Relationship based (DIR) approach to therapy.
In her classroom, Jodi sits quietly at a small table with a teacher. They take turns looking at photos and using a complete sentence to describe the scene (“The girl is riding a bike”). Each correct answer earns Jodi a sticker on a chart; with enough stickers she can choose a reward. ABA was once famous for its M&M rewards, but better programs now tailor positive reinforcement to the child’s preferences–a favorite activity, a hug or, in the case of one Alpine student, a packet of ketchup. Though Jodi didn’t talk at all until age 3, she speaks well and is mastering skills quickly with the help of two hours of tutoring in the evening. “From the moment she wakes up till she goes to sleep, everything is structured,” says her mother Michelle, who is thrilled with Jodi’s progress.