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Frequently Asked Questions

The following questions are ones we are asked on a regular basis by concerned caregivers. Hopefully the answers, although general, will give you some of the information you are seeking. For more detailed responses, consider reading Boutot and Tincani's Autism Encyclopedia, a reader-friendly book of resources on autism and ABA. Our very own Executive Director co-authored the introduction!


What is autism?
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability. It affects communication, behavior, and socialization, and is sometimes described as seeing a toddler lose skills that s/he once had, such as talking, pointing, or eye contact.


What causes autism?
There are currently no known causes for this disability; however, there is a genetic basis.


What are the traits of autism?
Some traits include, but are not limited to: inconsistently responding when name is called, toe-walking, hand flapping, loss of speech, lack of eye contact, or sensitivity to lights, sounds, touch.


Are there different levels of autism?
Every child is affected differently by autism: this is why autism is commonly referred to as a spectrum disorder. There is a wide range (or spectrum) of severity in traits.


Who is most susceptible?
Autism is widespread across races and religions. It occurs in more boys than girls, by a ratio of 4:1.


How does someone get diagnosed?
Autism is primarily diagnosed between the ages of 2 and 3 years old. (Although some people are diagnosed as early as infancy and as late as adulthood!) Specialists such as a neurodevelopmentalist or a pediatric neurologist typically diagnose autism. The diagnostic process usually involves direct observation of the child, parent input, developmental checklists, and diagnostic tools.


Are there other terms to describe autism?
In addition to autism, other diagnoses that are classified under the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) umbrella include Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified), High Functioning Autism (HFA), Asperger's Syndrome, and Rett Syndrome. Regardless of the diagnosis, early and intensive intervention is integral in treating this disability.


What cures autism?
Although there is no cure, it has been shown that intensive therapies help teach children with autism in a way that conventional educational techniques cannot. Early detection and early intervention are key in the treatment of autism.


What is the difference between ABA, discrete trials, and VB?
Verbal behavior is behavior: it includes any form of communication (PECS, speech, sign language, voice output systems). All behavior can be increased, maintained, or decreased. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the application of the science of behavior that focuses on the improvement of human behavior. Think of ABA as an umbrella term that encompasses principles of behavior (reinforcement, extinction, punishment). Techniques such as discrete trials or verbal behavior strategies use the principles of behavior, so they are part of ABA, not separate from it.


What is the difference between family training and DI?
Family training focuses on the hands-on training of family members to help teach the child(ren). DI is direct intervention between the instructor and the child(ren). Although an adult family member is always present during DI sessions, they will receive more hands-on training (as well as resources) during family training services.


Does my child need 40 hours a week of ABA?
The quality of the services is more important than the quantity of the services. Regardless of the number of hours of intervention per week your child receives, make sure the chosen intervention is evidence-based.


How do I know if my child is receiving quality intervention services?
Quality intervention services are grounded in evidence-based practices. If there is no supporting evidence that a particular treatment is effective in treating autism, then that treatment does not have "proof" of success.


Who is qualified to deliver ABA?
A professional is qualified to deliver ABA services if s/he has completed coursework and field experience under the supervision of a competent behavior analyst. Some behavior analysts possess the credential of BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) or BCABA (Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst). Although the number of BCBAs and BCABAs continues to grow, many children with ASD receive intervention from individuals who do not possess board certification. These may include instructional aides, classroom teachers, behavior specialists, ABA instructors, and many times parents! A variety of stakeholders can enhance the effectiveness of ABA programs under the supervision of a competent BACB-credentialed professional.


Should the family be involved?
Family involvement is vital to the success of any intervention. Without the family practicing learned skills on a daily basis, a child with autism will have a difficult time maintaining or generalizing skills s/he has learned during intensive therapy. In other words, all the therapy in the world will not be effective if the child’s family does not carry it over into daily life. So, the more involvement the better! Always be present during therapy sessions. Ask the instructors any and all questions. Work with your child while the instructor watches and gives feedback.


When will health insurance start paying for ABA?
On August 13, 2009, Governer Corzine signed into law A2238, which requires state-regulated health insurance companies to fund services for children with autism and other developmental disabilities. In July 2010, Xanadu Behavior Therapy started the credentialing process to become an in-network provider for a variety of health insurance carriers. Currently, we are an in-network provider for the following health insurance companies: Aetna (single-case agreements); Amerihealth; Blue Cross Blue Shield; Cigna; Oxford; and United Health.


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