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Doctor Lewis Mehl-Madrona and Autism Treatments

  • Published: 2012-01-10 (Revised/Updated 2016-09-24) : Author: Wendy Taormina-Weiss : Contact: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Dr. Mehl Madrona writings cover a number of important areas related to children who experience autism from therapeutic and potentially parental perspectives.

Autism - A complex developmental disability that causes problems with social interaction and communication. Symptoms usually start before age three and can cause delays or problems in many different skills that develop from infancy to adulthood. Different people with autism can have very different symptoms. Health care providers think of autism as a "spectrum" disorder, a group of disorders with similar features. One person may have mild symptoms, while another may have serious symptoms. But they both have an autism spectrum disorder. Currently, the autism spectrum disorder category includes: Autistic disorder (also called classic autism); Asperger syndrome; Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (or atypical autism). In some cases, health care providers use a broader term, pervasive developmental disorder, to describe autism.

Main Document

"Children with autism who exhibit immediate echolalia have the ability to repeat all, or a part of, an utterance they have just heard. The repetition most often happens when they do not seem to know a response that is appropriate to the utterance or question."

Doctor Lewis Mehl-Madrona has researched and presented worthy written items about children with autism and different types of educational therapies, as well as other types of therapies.

While Dr. Mehl-Madrona's writings are fairly extensive, they are fairly easy to read and understand, covering a number of important areas related to children who experience autism from therapeutic and potentially parental perspectives.

The areas this article covers in relation to Dr. Mehl-Madrona's works are intended to entice readers to further pursue the collection available through Dr. Mehl-Madrona's website. The information is certainly of interest to therapists, family members, friends, and caregivers of children with autism. What follows includes information related to Motivating Children with Autism, Language Use and Characteristics in Autism, Techniques for Intervention, and Naturalistic Behavior Therapy vs. Applied Behavioral Analysis.

Motivating Children with Autism

A number of different factors assist in the motivation of children with autism; stimulus, reinforcement, and variation of tasks. When a child with autism attempts to communicate and the attempts are reinforced, the child's verbal responding improves. More traditional techniques found reinforcement being provided to children with autism only if their verbalizations were correct or approximately correct on successive occasions.

Another type of powerful motivator for children with autism is stimulus. For example; a child's motivation is vastly increased if the items used to stimulate them are ones they highly desire and are chosen by the child, not by either a parent or a clinician. In addition, changing the tasks a child performs motivates them to respond. Should a teacher present a child with autism with new tasks in conjunction with the tasks the child has already mastered, the child learns new behaviors more rapidly. When reinforcement, stimulus, and variation of the tasks a child with autism is asked to perform are combined, the child demonstrates an improvement in their levels of appropriate responses and a significant reduction in their levels of either avoidance or disruptive behaviors.

Language Usage - Characteristics in Autism

Language characteristics of children with autism may be classified as verbal, nonverbal, delayed verbal, and echolalic. Children with autism who are verbal tend to present explanations that are elaborative, and refuse to change the topic even when they are given cues by another person. Due to the fact that children are being diagnosed at younger ages, intervention is being implemented while children are younger, and there has been a noticeable reduction in the numbers of children who are nonverbal.

Children with autism who are verbal have issues in areas including semantics, phonology, and syntax. Even when children with autism use language, the language they use differs in both the reasons for communicating and their numbers of utterances in the first place from those used by children who develop averagely. As an example, children with autism used communication most often to request objects, actions, or to protest. Children who develop in an average manner used communication most often to label, by comparison. In addition, children with autism demonstrated fewer social responses than averagely developing children.

There are two reasons to account for this difference in social responses. One of them is that children with autism are often involved in fewer social interactions because of they utter fewer things. The second reason is that children with autism often use language that suits their needs, such as requesting or protesting, instead of using language as a means of socializing with others.

Children with autism who exhibit immediate echolalia have the ability to repeat all, or a part of, an utterance they have just heard. The repetition most often happens when they do not seem to know a response that is appropriate to the utterance or question. Teaching children who are echolalic to respond with, "I don't know," or, "I don't understand," has been proven reduce their echoing, and to give them a response that is socially appropriate that can be used in a number of different situations. Children with autism who repeat words, phrases, sounds, or even entire songs, commercials, or TV programs are exhibiting, 'delayed echolalia,' a type of repetition that usually functions as a means of self-stimulation.

Techniques for Intervention

Functional analysis is one device that is used in order to elicit changes in behavior. The approach is comprised of assessing a child with autism's primary motivation, or purpose behind their behaviors. Once discovered, the information can be used to teach the child more effective behaviors to use in place of disruptive ones. As an example, children with autism many times express their displeasure, anger, or frustration, and at times basic needs through behaviors that is disruptive. Children with autism may communicate in an ineffective way through tantrums, screaming, aggressive behavior, or running away. Performance of a functional analysis, and replacement of inappropriate behaviors with appropriate ones, finds a child with autism able to learn to appreciate words and other ways to communicate that are effective. Teaching children with autism more effective communication skills results in increased acceptance by others, which in turn causes more positive interactions, leading to additional learning opportunities for the child.

Naturalistic Behavior Therapy vs. Applied Behavioral Analysis

The majority of practitioners in the autism realm have heard of the, 'Lovaas technique of Applied Behavioral Analysis.' The approach is based on teaching children with autism through interaction in trials that are discrete in which the child is rewarded for responding correctly. The rewards for correct responses include food, including at times foods to which a child may be allergic unfortunately. Foods such as candy are often used.

Studies performed at the Autism Research Center at the School of Education at the University of California at Santa Barbara have demonstrated that naturalistic behavior therapies are better than applied behavioral analysis when it comes to changing behaviors associated with autism in children. The approach uses natural situations where a child with autism is already interacting, and rewards the child through creation of opportunities to do more of the things the child already enjoys doing.

Children without autism might be involved as a part of the therapeutic process. Examples of therapies in the classroom might include a teacher developing a game involving the whole class when a student with autism became obsessed with maps. The game involved the children being divided into teams and drawing states on sidewalks with chalk as fast as they could, to include the locations of the capitols of the states. The student with autism excelled at the game, and soon became a desired member, resulting in an improvement in the opportunities for interaction with the other children in his class.

You can read more about Dr. Lewis Mahl-Marona's educational therapies on the Doctor's website:

Intensive Educational Therapies for Autistic Children

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1 : Autism's Social Deficits Reversed by Romidepsin Anti-Cancer Drug : University at Buffalo.
2 : Urine and Blood Tests Can Indicate Autism in Children : University of Warwick.
3 : Reduced Attention to Audiovisual Synchrony in Infancy May Predict Autism Diagnosis : Uppsala University.
4 : Slight Fluctuations in Movement Correspond to Autism Diagnoses : Indiana University.
5 : The Multiple Mutations of Autism : University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine.
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