This is the most commonly asked question posed to me by families with children recently diagnosed with ASD. Indeed, the landscape of treatment options can be overwhelming (e.g., Verbal Behavior, Pivotal Response Training (PRT), Discrete Trial, Floor Time, Reciprocal Imitation Training (RIT), Joint Attention Symbolic Play Engagement and Regulation (JASPER), and the Denver Model, to name just a few). In general, treatment options fall into one of two domains: those based on the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA) and those based on the principles of developmental psychology. When I first entered the field of autism intervention in the late 1980s, there was strong polarization between these two domains. Families were asked to choose between one or the other, and if results were not achieved quickly enough, or gains were not dramatic enough, parents were often left to wonder if they had picked the wrong treatment path.
In the last several years there has been growing recognition among researchers and clinicians that interventions with children with ASD need to take into account both how typically developing children learn (emphasized in Developmental approaches) as well as the learning principles that guide skill building (emphasized in ABA). The integration of these approaches is now considered by many researchers to be the “state-of-the-art” treatment that has the potential to achieve substantial and accelerated learning and behavior change.
So, when asked “Should I choose a Developmental or a Behavioral Approach?” my answer is “Select an approach based on blended developmental and behavioral theory and that has a strong foundation in research”. More and more such an approach can be found among skilled Tampa Bay ASD providers.