Focused puts dignity at the forefront. We utilize a group approach over a sole individual learning space with little social opportunity and generalization opportunity. We have a schedule much like a traditional education program so children can more easily move on to kindergarten and be much more successful. We put attending above eye contact, engage in stims along with the children, and are not intending to take away the Autism or individual characteristics, but to merely help individuals be the best they can be while retaining the essence of who they are, as Temple Grandin says. Our teens take a large part in creating their own goals utilizing the values they identify to live a happier and meaningful life to them, not society. We are often asking what socially acceptable behavior really is, teach self-advocacy, and push for Autism acceptance.
Applied Behavior Analysis: the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve behaviors to a meaningful degree, and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behavior (Baer, Wolf, & Risley, 1968).
ABA is a scientifically valid approach to understanding behaviors (in ABA terms, discovering the "function"), hence, understanding equals the ability to change!
ABA focuses on observable, and measurable behaviors. Yes, this includes "private events" (thoughts, memories, emotions)
ABA uses the principles of learning to increase or decrease behaviors (think about it for a second. . . a "behavior" includes a lot!), and it generalizes learned behaviors (meaning that the learner can use new skills with multiple individuals, in different situations, and in many different environments)
ABA utilizes research-based interventions to teach skills and increase/decrease behaviors.
ABA relies on data collection and analysis to determine the best intervention in teaching new skills/behaviors, and reducing challenging behavior.
How does Montessori and ABA work together?
ABA and Montessori blend beautifully. Montessori uses ABA approaches such as direct instruction, reinforcement, extinction, shaping/modeling, prompting, fading, chaining, discrimination, and generalization. Montessori materials are not only physically appealing, but they are often self-correcting. In fact, Montessori materials are amazing at teaching abstract concepts which otherwise are taught via drills, also known as Discrete Trial Training which tends to be basic and repetitive. Montessori also takes life skills seriously. So does ABA. The joining goal is to create independence. What better way to encourage and create opportunities take care of one self, of others, and the environment? This is a necessity for children with Autism and developmental disorders because there is often a struggle with self-help and daily functioning.
We are, however different from a traditional Montessori program in many ways. Due to the nature of ABA, our Montessori program does not discount the importance of pre-learning skills such as joint attention, imitation, following simple directions, etc. before teaching more advanced skills. In fact, without these skills, children cannot learn from an education environment. We want to teach a child how to learn first and foremost. Unlike a traditional Montessori program, we work one-to-one with individual prompting and reinforcement schedules. Montessori generally condones external rewards, but due to individuals with ASD or developmental disorders, intrinsic motivation is something to be taught. We take this into consideration and do not discount intrinsic motivation, but base it on the individual child and what is best for them with where they are at. We also do have set activities for each child based on their individualized treatment plan over the traditional approach of freedom of choice. Our goal is to create a nurturing, dignity focused, and peaceful learning environment.