The Skills® approach to intervention is rooted in applied behavior analysis (ABA). ABA-based treatment approaches are currently considered to be at the forefront of effective therapeutic and educational interventions for children with autism (Myers, & Plauché Johnson, 2007; National Research Council, 2001; New York State Department of Health, Early Intervention Program, 1999; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1999; Vismara & Rogers, 2010). An ABA approach leads us to the following core assumptions:
- Everything that a person says or does is considered behavior, including covert behaviors, such as thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and desires.
- A person’s behavior is a result of complex interactions between that person and his/her environment; thus people are not just “slaves to their genes” and behavior is not “fixed.” Both overt and covert behaviors are amenable to change through the manipulation of environmental variables.
- All individuals, with and without autism or other disabilities, are capable of learning (though not everyone will learn at the same rate or in the same way). A person’s disability or “label” cannot be used to explain why a behavior or skill is occurring or not occurring or why a teaching procedure or intervention plan fails.
- Family members should participate in treatment. The family is most often the child’s primary environment and thus plays an essential role in shaping and maintaining a child’s skills. Parent participation and training are a vital part of the treatment process.
- Continuous learning opportunities (helpful and problematic) are presented in the environment throughout people’s waking hours as they interact with people and objects and engage in every-day activities. Treatment programs should therefore maximize a child’s learning opportunities by training all individuals who interact regularly with the child (therapists, family members, teachers, classroom aides etc) to capture and contrive teaching opportunities throughout the child’s day.
- Accountability and the reliable demonstration that treatment procedures are effective are essential. Thus, ongoing data collection and data monitoring are a core part of Skills (and of ABA-based interventions in general). The detailed data-tracking systems within Skills allow users to monitor child progress and adjust treatment procedures to ensure that intervention is effective and individualized.