ABA Treatment for Children, Teens and Adults with Autism in Los Angeles



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Advice for Parents with an Adult Child with Autism

Keith Massel PH.D, BCB-D, Vista Center for Behavior Analysis

Independent Living Skills Training for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Video)

Video Transcription:

Keith Massel PH.D., BCBA-D,  Founder and President of Vista Center fior Behavior Analysis:

As Vista began developing a program for adults, it became clear to me that most parents of adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder are anxious and fearful. They realize that they won't be around forever, and then what? Parents of children with autism want what every parent wants.......for their children to be able to lead independent and fulling lives. Parents wonder if this is even possible.

Well,  independence is a relative thing. True, everyone won't be able to be fully independent, to live independently, have a job, and have a family. But, everyone can become more independent than they are now, and I firmly believe that.  

Vista's program for autistic adults and teens involves 3 training skills modules:

Module 1 is Living Skills training, and the overarching goal of that category is for the individual to be able to live independently, or with minimal assistance. 

Module 2 is Social Integration Skills, for which the individual can participate in social, and recreational activities, and engage in safe, social, and sexual behaviors.  

Module 3 is vocational skills, where the goals are to prepare for employment, and to maintain employment.  

And now it's up to all of us to make sure that parents of adults with ASD get the health insurance coverage that they need in order to have access to this comprehensive level of training and ABA therapy.

ABA Treament for Adults with Autism in Los Angeles

keith Massel Ph.D,BCBA-d


What Vista Believes About the Needs of Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Video)

Video Transcription

Keith Massel: Founder, President of Vista Center for Behavior Analysis.

A few years ago I realized that there were not good quality treatments for adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD).  As a result, Vista has developed a comprehensive program that is based on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services. 

I believe that adults with autism are a neglected population. They receive some services through various regional centers such as: adaptive skills for young adults, supportive living skills, independent living skills, day treatment, and funded group homes. These services are very valuable and effective for many people. 

Most of the programs do not use Applied Behavior Analysis procedures, and there's generally a lack of accountability for the results of the program. As we all know, the regional centers are under a great deal of pressure to save money, and it is unlikely that more extensive services for adults will be forthcoming in the near future. 

I believe an effective program for adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder must involve Applied Behavior Analysis, which is the only evidence-based program that has proven to be successful for individuals with autism.

I've recently spoken to people who think ABA is only for children. This is simply not true. I believe many people focus on discreet trials training or intensive ABA training, whereby a child receives 25 to 40 hours per week of services. 

Yes this is a common expectation for ABA services, but it's only one aspect of Applied Behavior Analysis. An Applied Behavior Analysis program is data-based, able to be replicated, accountable, and deals with socially valid behavior change. For adults, ABA would not be 25 to 40 hours of services per week.  Depending on the severity of the individual's diagnosis, the services would range from from two to twelve hours per week.


Autism Signs & Symptoms in Children and Adults

autism signs and symptoms

Identifying the Signs & Symptoms of Autism in Children and Adults 

Autism is a behavior and communication disorder that is comprised of autism, Asperger's Syndrome and Pervasive Development Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).  All three of these share the autism signs and symptoms of difficulty communicating both verbally and non-verbally, difficulty relating to others and the world in general and difficulty being flexible in thinking and action.  The main difference between these three is the degree with which the trouble is evident.  At one end of this spectrum, a person may have severe symptoms, while at the other end the symptoms may be difficult to notice.

As you read the various symptoms below, it is necessary to keep in mind that autism is so widely varied that each person will show a different combination of the traits, but not necessarily all of them.  On the other hand, a person having a few of the symptoms may not have autism at all. These are meant as guidelines which can illuminate some of the challenges you may be having with your child and whether or not you may need further treatment from a professional.  Let's take a look at how the various symptoms play out in different life stages.

Infants and Toddlers 

Autism signs and symptoms in this young group may be difficult to see, but addressing the issue early can help give your child the best chance of success.  One of the biggest signs is a young child who does not speak by the age of two or a child who starts to talk and then seems to regress to a pre-vocal stage.  These children will have difficulty making eye contact with others.  They will rarely, if ever, initiate play with others and will appear to not hear when you talk to them. Unlike other babies and small children, these children do not want you to touch and cuddle them.  They do not return smiles and are unlikely to respond to play such as patty-cake, which requires mirroring another's action. 

Autism and iPad Apps

students with autism iPad apps resized 600

Autism and iPad Apps

Apple has revolutionized the way people can communicate and learn. Over 600 universities are listed on iTunes U, which is home to 250,000 free lectures, videos and podcasts. iPods are widely used as on-the-go learning devices by individual learners and students. But it’s the company’s touch screen tablet, the iPad and it's avallable apps, that gave voice to individuals with autism. If you’re a parent, special education professional or therapist, you can’t afford to miss the learning opportunities iPad apps has to offer. This is truly  a “miracle device”.

Autism iPad Apps to the Rescue

You can get a sense of how useful an iPad app is just by listening to anecdotal evidence from parents and special needs professionals. In 2009, the first real augmented and alternative communication (ACC) app Proloquo2Go was released for the iPhone. Its creator, Amsterdam-based AssistiveWare, released a company survey showing that half of Proloquo2Go users reported improved speech abilities. Ninety percent of the app users use an iPad and more than 25% more use an iPhone or iPod Touch.

Proloquo2Go is an app of great promise. More than a dozen of stories culled from reliable sources online point to the same conclusion. If you’re looking for that one life-changing app to help your child communicate and learn, there’s Proloquo2Go. It’s one iPad app that has positively affected families for a small price of $190.

The app’s main page is made of very simple icons with labels like “Basics,” “Comments,” “Help,” “I need,” “I want,” “Manners,” “Word Spaces,” and more. Under Basics, users can find phrases like “My name is…,” “I’m this old,” and other basic phrases helpful to students with autism. What’s more, you can personalize the app by adding icons, voice and language.

What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and Why Does it Work?

ABA therapy

Applied Behavior Analysis 

We treat children, teens and adults who are diagnosed with autism and other language, communication, behavioral and developmental disorders. We use the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis to decrease inappropriate behaviors while increasing functional skills. We frequently have parents of young newly diagnosed children ask us to explain applied behavior analysis and why it is necessary.  Here it is in a nutshell.....

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the application of behavioral therapy to solve problems associated with autism such as language delays and extreme sensory and behaviorial challenges. It is not one procedure, or even a handful of procedures or therapeutic techniques. It is a scientific methodology and is the only proven discipline for successfully treating autism and other developmental disabilities. Early and intensive ABA is by far the most effective approach for establishing language, self-help skills, and reducing unwanted behaviors with children diagnosed with autism and other developmental disorders.

It has been described that Applied Behavior Analysts are analogous to physicians, who develop treatments for biological problems based on basic medical research. ABA is driven by data. Behavior, goals, and treatments are defined objectively and specifically. This results in reliable data to be collected and used in modifying treatment. Decisions about what treatment to use, and whether or not the treatment actually works, are dependent upon the analysis of this data. ABA therefore is a scientifically measurable approach to treating autism, and all conclusions are tied back to observable changes in behavior. 

What is California Autism Insurance Coverage - Areva Martin (Video)

Vista Center for Behavior Analysis


Areva Martin: I am very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very excited about SB 946. And I am so excited about it because, while it doesn't answer all of the issues, and it doesn't provide for everything that families need, it is a huge step forward in terms of helping families who are dealing with getting services.

I am a parent of an autistic child so I've had autism providers in my home since my son was two. I know the struggle of parents trying to find access to providers. I know the struggle as a lawyer that represents families who are also seeking services through regional centers, and school districts, and as a policy maker, I have been involved in this. But the good news is, as Keith said, there aren't any age or coverage limitations.

Some states which enacted autism mandates, (there are 29 states which have done so), put limits on the age of individuals that would be covered by the particular insurance.  Some states have caps on the amount that can be spent on autism therapies.  California opted not to do any of that (e.g. put limits or financial caps).

SB 946 provides coverage for "behavioral health treatment." Behavioral health treatment is a broad term, it's defined in the legislation as...

"Professional services and treatment programs, including Applied Behavior Analysis, and evidence based behavior intervention programs that develop or restore to the maximum extent practical, the functioning of an individual with pervasive developmental disorder, or autism."

Help Your Teen with Autism Navigate the Dating Scene

dating teens with autism

Autism researchers and therapists from UCLA's Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior wrote an article regarding autistic teens and dating. 

Dating can be intimidating and challenging but despite this reality it has the potential for being a positive and worthwhile experience. What advice do parents need for discussing dating and intimacy with their autistic teenage sons and daughters?

Here are some general guidelines:

  1. Encourage open dialogue
  2. Be proactive
  3. Don't delay discussions
  4. Role play
  5. Discuss who,when,where and how to ask someone out
  6. Explain how to handle rejection
  7. Discuss steps of going on a date
  8. Discuss how to end a date
  9. Discuss different levels of intimacy
  10. Discuss how to dress for a date

Read full article here:

10 Steps to Help your Teen with Autism Navigate Dating

Calif Autism Insurance Serving Autistic Adults - Connie Lapin (Video)

Vista Center for Behavivor Analysis


Connie Lapin: As the great 21st Century philosopher, and comedian Jonathan Winters said: “If your ship doesn't come in, well then just swim out to it.”  

And that's what our family's been doing for 42 years. That was the age when Shaun was diagnosed with severe autism. It wasn't a great time, there were no dreams, there were no hopes. People that entered that world who had a disability were dehumanized and marginalized, but that's not how I want to end that story, because I'm here because I have a lot of hope. I believe adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder, no matter how severe, can have a good life, a valued life, and they have gifts.

So what is the state of affairs for adults with autism? This is the bad news part. We all know, or we've heard that about 85% of those on the spectrum are under 21 and we know the explosion of autism that we've seen around us. What is going to happen to all of those individuals who enter the adult world?

Girls with Autism - Are They Being Served?

girls with autism

Autism is a neurobiological disorder, primarily affecting brain development, which continues to mystify researchers as to its exact cause or causes. Genetic research in 2010, however, uncovered some new information that may eventually reveal some breakthroughs.

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new statistics showing that prevalence of autism has risen by approximately 23 percent, and now affects 1 in 88 children in the United States. Out of this number, 1 in 54 boys typically receive an autism diagnosis, while girls with autism usually factor in as 1 in 252 among the overall population. The CDC designated autism as "the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S."

The Under-served Population

Because the number of boys with autism is so much greater, girls with autism often end up as being the under-served population. If you are the parent or caregiver of a teenage girl or young woman with autism, then you unfortunately know this is true. Since girls represent "only" about 20 percent of the total number of individuals with autism, much of the emphasis remains focused on boys with autism.

Even at 20 percent, however, girls with autism represent a large number of the population. The conservative figure is anywhere from 1 to 1.5 million individuals diagnosed with autism. Two of the hallmark symptoms of autism tend to be difficulties in development of 1) communication and 2) social skills, which creates a greater burden for female teens and young adults who desire to both communicate and socialize with their peers. Instead of easily socializing with peers and others, girls with autism often experience difficulty making friends and managing their feelings, and may become the objects of teasing and bullying.

California Regional Centers and Autism Insurance Coverage (Video)


Continuity of ABA Therapy Services is a Big Concern for Parents of Children with Autism  

Video Transcript:

With the passage of SB 946, many parents of children with autism are anxious. For current Regional Center clients, the continuity of ABA services is at risk because they are now required to go through their health insurance company to obtain behaviorial treatment services. And the insurance companies are still trying to figure out their administrative process for providing these new services. 

At Vista's July event, held at the Skirball Cultural Center, we assembled an expert panel of autism advocates to address questions related to the California Insurance Mandate which went into effect July 1, 2012.

A father shared his experience navigating this continuity issue:

He said,  "I have one kid who, over four years, received 40 hours of services per week between the Regional Center and the school district. As required by the Regional Center,  I submitted all of the paperwork to our insurance company. The first two weeks were uneventful. On (or around) July 15th, 2012, the insurance company coverage denials started. Our insurance carrier said, “Well, we think he's got an intellectual disability, and he really isn't going to benefit from getting these behavioral services at home.” So they denied coverage.

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