York U autism researcher is the co-author of a recommendations report for Ontario Autism Program

In June 2017, the Ministry of Children & Youth Services will be launching the new Ontario Autism Program to help individuals with autism access the quality services they deserve

The Ontario Association for Behaviour Analysis (ONTABA) assembled a group of behaviour analysts with prominent research and practice expertise, including York University Faculty of Health Professor Adrienne Perry.

This expert committee released a comprehensive, scientific, 135-page report on “Evidence-Based Practices for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)” on March 31.

This report emphasizes the following:

  • Individuals with autism have the right to receive effective, individualized, evidence-based intervention across their lifespan.
  • Applied behaviour analysis (ABA) is the gold standard evidence-based intervention for individuals with ASD.
  • The type, intensity and duration of ABA interventions for individuals with autism should be based on need to maximize the individual’s success.
  • Individuals with autism receiving services and their families should be partners in decision-making throughout intervention.

This scientific report was informed by over 2,000 studies and existing practice guidelines from several professional international behaviour analytic organizations. It is intended to help answer critical questions being posed by parents, professionals and government on how services should be provided for children and youth with autism in Ontario. Specifically, it addresses intensity and duration of services, how the individual’s age impacts clinical decision-making, and how services should be planned, implemented, supervised and monitored.

“Children and people may need a variety of different kinds of interventions to help them develop communication skills social skills, play skills etc. in order to learn new things and also to reduce some of the problem behaviours that go along with autism,” said Perry, a professor in the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Health at York University.

“Applied behaviour analysis (ABA) and all of the many different forms of it are very effective for both teaching skills across a wide variety of developmental areas and also reducing behavioural challenges. We’ve presented the research in terms of what works for different ages and different developmental areas.”

“There is overwhelming evidence that ABA interventions can dramatically improve the quality of life for individuals with autism and their families,” said Louis Busch, president of ONTABA. “Individuals with autism should be able to access high-quality, individualized ABA interventions as needed throughout their life. In addition to advocating for quick access to high-quality, individualized behaviour analytic services, we are concerned that children and families are protected from false or misleading claims about effective treatments and from unqualified practitioners.”

The report says early intervention with ABA is key right from the beginning.

“In addition to intensive behavioural intervention, which is a form of ABA intervention typically prescribed for younger children and targets a comprehensive range of goals in all developmental areas (typically for 30 to 40 hours per week), we’ve emphasized in this report the large body of research about ‘Focussed ABA interventions,’ ” said Perry.

Focused ABA interventions, she continued, are more specific evidence-based practices that target one or a few goals in a more time-limited manner, perhaps for 10 to 25 hours per week, and that are applicable for individuals of all ages.

“We sincerely hope the information in this report will be helpful in very practical ways to families and practitioners as they try to make the best decisions for their children and their clients,” said Dr. Julie Koudys, chair of the Expert Committee. “We also hope this information will help policy makers use public dollars most effectively to meet the needs of this vulnerable population.”

The collective efforts of professionals, parents and policy makers working in concert have the power to make a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals with autism and their families. To this end, ONTABA adds its voice to the dialogue about what is needed for the treatment of individuals with autism. ONTABA remains committed to working with families, practitioners and policy makers to ensure the provision of the most effective treatment, which is the ethical and effective application of behaviour analysis in Ontario. For more information on about this report, visit ontaba.org.