When a child first begins at Partners In Excellence (Partners), several days are spent getting to know the child and completing a baseline of their current skill level. Once this is done, goals in each skill area are determined by starting with the lowest skill level and moving upward. Typically, only one or two goals will be set for each skill area at a time. However, because children with autism have their own unique learning patterns, this does not necessarily mean that all skills will be learned in an orderly and sequential fashion. Often children will unexpectedly demonstrate that they have mastered a skill which is much further along in a particular section than the goal(s) on which that they are currently working. As goals are mastered, new goals are set accordingly.
One key to the success of this approach is that there is very intense interaction between the behavior therapist and the child. The initial therapy stages involve getting to know the child and their preferences and their abilities to process information.
First therapists teach the child that it is more fun to be with them than to be alone. Therapists create fun by pairing themselves with reinforcement. To find the child’s reinforcement, the therapist follows the child’s lead to determine the types of activities in which they are interested. Therapists observe the child’s sensory system in attempt to determine how he likes to play. They will experiment with different vocal qualities, touches, loudness levels, and visual effects to try and determine the way the child is processing information.
Therapists will look for creative ways to solve problems when they occur. It is known that each child is unique and requires a teaching approach that addresses their particular learning style. Partners’ practices are based on both research and providing best treatment practices to children with autism. The methodology employed has been scientifically validated and is based on the principles of behavior analysis.
Special attention is given to the factors that motivate each individual to learn. Through the practice of daily measurement of progress towards individual goals, therapists will apply the basic principles of Behavior Analysis continually throughout the day to make learning more successful and teaching more effective.
Therapists use “errorless” teaching techniques, which means that while a child is learning, prompts are given immediately and then gradually faded out completely, so that the child always feels successful.