The DARS Autism Program works in partnership with local community agencies through grant contracts to provide applied behavior analysis (ABA) services for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, autism is more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined. Boys are nearly five times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls.
Autism Program services include assessments and ABA treatment services in the home, community or clinic. To be eligible for these services, children 3 through 15 years of age, must have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum and be a Texas resident. When a child needs speech-language therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy or audiology evaluations, the local community agency will refer the child for services.
On Sept. 1, 2014, DARS adopted rules with comprehensive ABA services for children aged 3 through 5 years and focused ABA services for children 3 through 15 years of age.
In fiscal year 2015, DARS Autism Program services were provided by:
- Autism Treatment Center Inc., San Antonio
- Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Austin and Corpus Christi
- Child Study Center, Fort Worth
- Easter Seals North Texas Inc., Carrollton, Dallas and Fort Worth
- The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, Houston
- Paso del Norte Children's Development Center, El Paso
- Texana Center, Rosenberg
The Autism Program expanded services to previously unserved parts of the state and began providing focused ABA treatment services to target and improve a few specific outcomes including addressing challenging behaviors and improving social and adaptive skills.
Responsive Interaction Parent Training (RIPT)
Parents of children with autism spectrum disorders in the RIPT project pilot, through a contract with Texas State University, learned how to use ABA treatment strategies in the home to improve communication and social interaction. Promising results were achieved in the pilot's first phase.
Texas Autism Research & Resource Center (TARRC) Conference
The annual DARS Texas Autism Research Conference brought ASD researchers and the broader ASD community together to engage in a productive dialogue about evidence-based research and its practical applications.
Ryan and Family Learn and Succeed Together
Ryan, 10, of El Paso has a diagnosis on the autism spectrum and is one of many children who have responded positively to focused applied behavioral analysis (ABA) treatment services. Ryan's parents partnered with Ryan's team of autism specialists to learn how to use ABA treatment strategies to help him succeed.
Ryan began receiving focused ABA services through the DARS Autism Program in May 2015, from Paso del Norte Children's Development Center in El Paso. At that time, Ryan experienced difficulties in social skills, functional communication, academic performance, activities of daily living and problem behaviors that posed safety issues for him and those around him.
The first goal that Ryan worked to achieve with his behavior analysts was reducing the intensity and frequency of problem behaviors, including forceful head butting, hair pulling, kicking, punching, biting, slapping, property destruction and throwing items at staff or family. As Ryan began to demonstrate progress, his behavior analysts began to provide training to his parents so that they could help him continue to improve at home and school.
The behavior analysts modeled behavioral intervention strategies, helped his parents apply these strategies in role-play scenarios and in the actual situation, and taught them how to provide positive and corrective feedback to help Ryan learn appropriate behaviors. Over the course of three and a half months, Ryan showed a significant decrease in problem behaviors and learned age-appropriate coping skills for difficult situations or to deal with denial or delay of preferred items or activities.
Ryan was also able to make progress in the area of communication. Ryan's team taught him alternative ways to communicate his needs without resorting to problem behaviors, and he can now gain the attention of his parents, staff and peers appropriately and request preferred items or activities. Ryan has learned to correctly write his name, to read sight words and to stay on topic during conversations.
Today, Ryan is truly shining with his improved performance across all areas addressed in treatment.