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Quality and effective autism treatment only possible with staff training

Dino Trakakis
Dino Trakakis

Director of Autism Recovery Network

Jakarta | Wed, February 22, 2017 | 01:45 pm
Quality and effective autism treatment only possible with staff training

Autism is a brain development disorder which affects about 1 per cent of the world's population. (Shutterstock/File)

Many children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have underlying food allergies or sensitivities and gastro-intestinal problems that exacerbate and worsen their condition. By focusing on and improving the dietary choices of these children, these dietary changes not only improve their overall health, but also alleviate any inflammation caused by underlying food allergies and sensitivities. 

However, to truly help these children improve their condition and develop to their full potential so that they have a chance to reach or even surpass the mental development of their neurotypical peers, fixing their diet alone is often not enough.   

Read also: Balinese foundation treats autistic children with organic food

ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects information processing in the brain and changes how nerve cells and their synapses normally connect and organize. Therefore, it is imperative that these dysfunctions are corrected through intensive and timely intervention that helps to build new circuits and connections in the brain and basically reshape and change the brain. 

At the moment, the only scientifically proven method for treating ASD is applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, which is the only treatment for autism endorsed by the US Surgeon General.

ABA therapy is an intensive, structured teaching program that uses rewards (i.e. reinforcers) to teach appropriate behaviors and responses to children. It simplifies complex sets of behaviors and skills into simple components. Children then learn each component through trials in a comprehensive curriculum, which tests to see how they respond to a stimulus (for example, a sound or an object). Correct responses are rewarded and incorrect responses ignored.

However, quality and effective ABA therapy can only be provided with substantial investments in training the therapists continuously to allow them to acquire the necessary experience and expertise that are needed to carry out the treatment effectively and correctly. In particular, there have been vast advances and improvements in ABA therapy since its inception as a treatment for autism in the 1980s. For example, Verbal Behavior, or ABA/VB, is a more advanced form of ABA therapy that is based on the pioneering work of Dr. James Partington, Ph.D., BCBA-D, the creator of ABLLS (Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills).

Verbal Behavior (ABA/VB) focuses on language acquisition so that the child truly understands what is being taught. This is in contrast to traditional ABA, which emphasizes on the child simply performing specific, desired behaviors.

Read also: Singapore-led team's study may pave way for drug to treat autism

Unfortunately, although there are a number of therapy centers that offer ABA therapy in Indonesia, many of these can only offer sub-par treatment services as they are either for-profit companies that aim to keep profits high and costs low, or non-profit and unprofessional centers opened and operated by parents of autistic children who hope to help their kids but lack the necessary knowledge and skills to set up adequate intervention programs. Because they don’t invest in training their staff, many of these centers continue to use outmoded and outdated forms of ABA therapy that should no longer be used. 

Their actions unfairly taint the name of ABA therapy, which is often criticized as being too “robotic” and “rigid” in the media because the media often does not differentiate between quality centers providing effective ABA therapy services and those profiteering centers that continue to employ antiquated methods of ABA. More importantly, children who undergo sub-par and ineffective ABA therapy at such centers have their potential limited and their future affected. 

Therefore, parents need to check the credentials of therapy centers and therapists before entrusting their children to them as their choice of centre involves the welfare and long-term future of their children.  



Dino Trakakis is the director of Autism Recovery Network (

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