Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

Overall Philosophy: ABA, and other behavioral approaches is based on the theory that all behavior is learned and that it is governed by antecedents and consequences. The foundations of this are that learning can be reduced to the repetition of responses, which increase with reward. In this way a task to be learned can be analyzed into small steps that are then used as a teaching program for the child. Each step can be shaped through positive reinforcement.

Popularity: ABA is one of the most frequently used, if not the most frequently used treatment for autism.

Time Required for Treatment: ABA is an intensive intervention, which takes place up to 40 hours a week for approximately two years.

Treatment Cost: Given the intensive, one-on-one nature and length of this program, treatment is costly. Actual costs will vary, however, depending upon whether the person directing the treatment is a trained college student doing it as part of their collegiate educational training or is instead a full-time ABA professional.

Who Directs the Treatment? In order for ABA to work, it has to be delivered by all the significant persons who work with the child. There is a hierarchy of deliverers, including a consultant, a supervisor, and a number of tutors, parents, and peers.

How Success is Defined: ABA uses clear objectives, that are measured in terms of observable and definable goals, specific techniques for achieving these objectives, and ongoing collection of data to assess the effectiveness

Risks/Concern: Behavior approaches have been criticized for their inappropriate and narrow focus, that children are taught to become robots and do not generalize their skills outside of the ABA environment.



  •, 1080 Stackhouse Mill Road, Newtontown Square, PA 19073

Social Communication, Emotional Regulation, and Transactional Support Model (SCERTS)

When was it Developed? The SCERTS model was developed based on two decades of empirical evidence. Collaborators in the project include Barry M. Prizant, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Amy M. Wetherby, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Emily Rubin, MS, CCC-SLP, Amy C. Laurent, EdM, OTR/L, and Patrick J. Rydell, Ed.D., CCC-SLP.

Overall Philosophy: Each child's individual patterns of strength and needs guide program planning, including selection of goals and strategies. The model and its curriculum is based on extensive research on the development of children with and without disabilities. Everyday activities and routines are the primary contexts in which children learn, and in which progress is measured. The model is a comprehensive, educational approach and multidisciplinary framework that addresses the core challenges faced by children with ASD and related disabilities

Popularity: The SCERTS model was developed in response to encouragement and feedback from researchers and clinicians in the field of ASD.

Time Required for Treatment: The SCERTS Model has been designed to be integrated and comprehensive with a sequential and logical process to move from assessment to educational programming and from less sophisticated to more sophisticated goals child. The time required to move through the program depends on the child.

Cost of Treatment: A video copy of the SCERTS programming model can be purchased o for $279.00

Training Materials Required: None indicated

How is Success Defined: Progress is measured in functional activities with a variety of partners (e.g., parents, brothers and sisters and other children) in a variety of everyday routines and social situations.

Risks/Concern: No documented or obvious risks



  • SCERTS ® Model

Pivotal Response Training (PRT)

Overall Philosophy: Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) is a naturalistic intervention model producing positive changes in critical behaviors, leading to generalized improvement in communication, social, and behavioral areas. Rather than target individual behaviors one at a time, PRT targets pivotal areas of a child's development, such as motivation, response to multiple cues, self-management, and social initiations. By targeting these critical areas, PRT results in widespread, collateral improvements in other social, communicative, and behavioral areas.

Popularity: Named by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences in 2001 as one of the top 10 state-of-the-art treatments for autism in the United States.

Time Required for Treatment: 30 to 40 hours a week

Treatment Cost: Not Defined

Training Materials: PRT Manual, DVD Training, Program leader

Who Directs the Treatment? Parents and therapists in the home

How Success is Defined: Ongoing program evaluation and data collection to measure progress toward goals and objectives

Risks/Concern: Some practitioners feel it does not prepare a child with autism to respond to new situations. However, research has shown that ABA techniques show consistent results in teaching new skills and behaviors to children with autism



  • Autism Society of America:
  • UCSB Koegel Autism Center:

Incidental Teaching

Overall Philosophy: Incidental teaching is a systematic protocol of instruction that is provided in the context of natural environments. It takes place in the settings in which the new skills targeted for teaching will be needed. Incidental teaching is most often thought of as a language promotion technique, but these teaching procedures apply equally well to domains such as social, self-care, and academic skills. The origins of incidental teaching are firmly grounded in the principles of learning that are the cornerstone of more traditional behavioral procedures. The following list describes this method of intervention:

Popularity: Used mostly in Early Childhood settings

Time Required for Treatment: Throughout the day. In naturally occurring situations in which to provide language-learning opportunities for the child. Teaching strategies are designed to maximize reinforcement and facilitate generalization

Treatment Cost: Not defined, but due to the fact that this treatment option is based on the premise of using natural environments the associated costs should be minimal

Who directs the treatment? Early Childhood Teachers, Families, Caregivers

How Success is Defined: Assessment of child's progress before, during, and after the intervention

Risks/Concern: No documented or obvious risks



  • The Burkhart Project; Carol Layton, Ed.D and Robin Lock, Ph.D., Texas Tech University:
  • The Autism Network:

Structured Teaching (TEACCH)

Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication-handicapped CHildren 
TEACCH is a behavior-based treatment that takes place in a school setting. Parents work with their children at home as well, based on the program that has begun at school. TEACCH does not use any one particular technique, instead it creates a program based on each individual child.

Overall Philosophy: There is a neuropsychological basis of autism and this is what must be addressed. A customized program based on the child's needs, skills, and interests will be most effective.

Popularity: Approximate number of children on the autistic spectrum that participated in this treatment from 1995 to 2004 (the past ten years): 50,000

Time Required for the Treatment: On-going throughout education.

Treatment Cost: Approximately $1,000. There are scholarships available for residents of North Carolina.

Who Directs the Treatment? Parents or a teacher.

Where does the Treatment take Place? Home, school, or the community.

How Success is Defined: To live or work more effectively in the home, school, and community.


Risks/Concern: Some believe that TEACCH's expectations are too low for the children.