Applied Behavior Analysis for Autism

New Online Continuing Education Course

Applied Behavior Analysis for AutismApplied Behavior Analysis for Autism is a new 2-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that provides evidence-based behavioral interventions for the minimally verbal child with autism.

The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) currently seems to be holding steady at one in 68 children (or 1.46 percent). The communication challenges of these children are widely known and require specialized early interventions to overcome them.

This course presents evidence-based strategies that can enable students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and others who are verbally limited, to become more effective communicators. The focus will be on the minimally verbal child, the child who has a very small repertoire of spoken words or fixed phrases that are used communicatively. Included are an overview of autism spectrum disorder, an introduction to the science of applied behavior analysis, the use of manding in communication training, techniques for direct instruction programming, and inter-professional collaboration strategies. Major points are illustrated throughout by case studies from actual practice. Course #21-15 | 2017 | 43 pages | 15 posttest questions

This online course provides instant access to the course materials (PDF download) and CE test. After enrolling, click on My Account and scroll down to My Active Courses. From here you’ll see links to download/print the course materials and take the CE test (you can print the test to mark your answers on it while reading the course document). Successful completion of the online CE test (80% required to pass, 3 chances to take) and course evaluation are required to earn a certificate of completion. Click here to learn more.

About the Author:

Rosemarie Griffin, MA, CCC-SLP, BCBA, COBA, is licensed by the Ohio Board of Speech Pathology and Audiology and the Ohio Department of Education, and is a certified member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). She is also licensed by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) and by the Ohio Board of Psychology. She completed her Master’s degree at Kent State University, her education specialist degree in school administration from Cleveland State University and coursework leading to licensure as a board certified behavior analyst from the University of North Texas. To learn more about modified leisure skills or to gather information about using applied behavior analysis to help students increase their communication skills, check out her website

CE Information:

Professional Development Resources is approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA Provider #3159); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR Provider #PR001); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (#BAP346), Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635), Dietetics & Nutrition (#50-1635), and Occupational Therapy Practice (#34); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).


A Radical New Approach to Understanding Autism

By Barry M. Prizant PhD.

A Radical New Approach to Understanding AutismExcerpted from “Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism”

The first thing I noticed about Jesse was the fear and anxiety in his eyes.

I was visiting a small New England school district when I heard about an eight-year-old boy who had recently transferred from a nearby district. There he had earned a dubious distinction: administrators called Jesse the worst behavior problem they had ever encountered.

It wasn’t difficult to understand why, given his challenges. Jesse, a sturdy boy with straight brown hair and wire-rimmed glasses, struggled with severe social anxiety, extreme sensitivity to touch, and difficulty processing language. He also had a seizure disorder that was detected when he was a toddler, about the time he lost the ability to speak. He communicated with little more than guttural sounds and grunts, pushing away people and objects or physically leading people to what he wanted.

Since it was so difficult for Jesse to make his needs known, he often seemed aggravated and miserable. He sometimes took out his frustration and anxiety on himself, pounding his fists against his thighs and his forehead, covering his body with bruises. When teachers tried to direct him from one activity to the next, he often reacted with flailing limbs or by pushing them away with his arms or legs. Reports from the previous school described kicking, scratching, and biting episodes escalating into fits so severe that almost daily, three or four adults had to pin the boy down to subdue him, then isolate him in a “time-out” room.

The staff had interpreted all of this as willful, uncooperative behavior. But Jesse’s mother knew better. She understood that his actions were his way of communicating—a direct reflection of his confusion, agitation, and fear. When she explained to the administrators that her son struggled with sensory challenges that made him unusually sensitive to loud noises and being touched, they had been dismissive. Clearly, they insisted, the boy was displaying noncompliant behavior. In their eyes, Jesse was strong-willed, stubborn, and defiant, and their response was to try to break him—to treat him as a trainer would treat a horse.

What did these educators offer to help Jesse learn to communicate? Practically nothing. The district’s policy was to focus first on controlling a child’s behavior, and, only after achieving success, to address the area of communication.

They had it all wrong.

I had heard so many awful things about Jesse that I was intrigued to come face-to-face with him. When I finally did, I didn’t observe any of what I had heard described—not the defiance, not the aggression, not the willful disobedience. What I saw was a boy who was understandably frightened, anxious, and constantly on guard. And I saw something else: Jesse’s extreme vigilance and anxiety were manifestations of the inevitable damage that occurs when people— however well meaning—completely misunderstand the behavior of individuals with autism.

How does this happen? The short answer is that caregivers neglect to ask “Why?” They don’t listen carefully or observe closely. Instead of seeking to understand the child’s perspective and experience, they simply try to manage the behavior.

Unfortunately this behavioral-assessment approach—that is, using a checklist of deficits—has become the standard way of determining whether a person has autism. We say a child has autism if he displays a combination of traits and behaviors that are deemed to be problematic: difficulty in communicating, trouble developing relationships, and a restricted repertoire of interests and behaviors, including repetitive speech—known as echolalia—and actions, such as rocking, arm flapping, and spinning. Professionals observe these “autistic behaviors” and then assess the people who display them by using a sort of circular reasoning: Why does Rachel flap her hands? Because she has autism. Why has she been diagnosed with autism? Because she flaps.

Following this approach means defining a child as the sum of his deficits. How best to help such a child? By managing those behaviors or attempting to get rid of them: to halt the rocking, to squelch the echoing speech, to reduce the flapping. And what denotes success? The more we can make a child look and act “normal,” the better.

This way of understanding and supporting people with autism is sorely lacking. It treats the person as a problem to be solved rather than an individual to be understood. It fails to show respect for the individual and ignores that person’s perspective and experience. It neglects the importance of listening, paying close attention to what the person is trying to tell us, whether through speech or patterns of behavior.

On top of that, in my experience it doesn’t work—and often makes things worse.

What’s more helpful is to dig deeper: to ask what is motivating these behaviors, what is underlying these patterns. It’s more appropriate, and more effective, to ask “Why?” Why is she rocking? Why does he line up his toy cars that way, and why only when he arrives home from school? Why does he stare at his hands fluttering in front of his eyes, and always during English class and recess? Why does she repeat certain phrases when she is upset?

The Challenge of Dysregulation

Usually the answer is that the person is experiencing some degree of emotional dysregulation. When we are well regulated emotionally, we are most available for learning and engaging with others. We all strive to be alert, focused, and prepared to participate in activities in our daily lives. Our neurological systems help by filtering out excessive stimulation, telling us when we’re hungry or tired or when to protect ourselves from danger. People with autism, primarily due to underlying neurology (the way the brain’s wiring works), are unusually vulnerable to everyday emotional and physiological challenges. So they experience more feelings of discomfort, anxiety, and confusion than others. They also have more difficulty learning how to cope with these feelings and challenges.

To be clear: Difficulty staying well regulated emotionally and physiologically should be a core, defining feature of autism. Unfortunately professionals have long overlooked this, focusing on the resulting behaviors instead of the underlying causes.

If you know a person with autism, consider what makes this person less able to stay well regulated: problems in communicating, environments that are chaotic, people who are confusing because they talk or move too quickly, unexpected change, excessive worry about things that are uncertain. Then there are associated challenges, such as sensory sensitivities to touch and sound, motor and movement disturbances, sleep deprivation, allergies, and gastrointestinal issues.

Of course people with autism aren’t alone in experiencing these challenges. We all feel dysregulated from time to time. Speaking in front of a large audience, you might feel sweat collecting on your brow, your hands might quiver, your heart might race. Wearing a scratchy wool sweater might be so irritating that you can’t focus. When your normal morning routine—coffee, newspaper, shower— is thrown off by an unexpected intrusion, you might feel out of sorts for the rest of the morning. When these factors accumulate—you miss sleep, you’re under a deadline, you skip lunch, and then your computer crashes—it’s easy to be extremely agitated.

Read More:


Related CE Courses for Speech Language Pathologists

This is a test only course (book not included). The book can be purchased from Amazon or some other source.This CE test is based on the book “Apps for Autism” (2015, 436 pages), the ultimate app planner guidebook for parents/professionals addressing autism intervention. There are hundreds of apps for autism, and this course will guide you through them so that you can confidently utilize today’s technology to maximize your child or student’s success. Speech-language pathologist Lois Jean Brady wrote this book to educate parents and professionals about the breakthrough method she calls “iTherapy” – which is the use of mobile technology and apps in meeting students’ individual educational goals.For those who are new to the wonderful world of apps, worry not! This award winning reference will review hundreds of excellent apps, accessories and features organized into 39 chapters for parents and professionals alike. There are also helpful sections of how to choose apps, evidence-based practices, choosing an iDevice, internet safety, a helpful toolbox and much, much more.


It is well-established by research that many learners on the autism spectrum benefit from the use of visuals. How can we go beyond a basic use of symbols to create and implement individualized visuals that will help our students learn and communicate more comprehensively? Participants will learn about considerations and strategies to take into account in order to put more effective visuals in place for their students on the autism spectrum. Topics covered include: broadening symbol selection, adding layers and additional components to visuals in order to make them more motivating and meaningful, providing visuals for a wide variety of expressive communicative functions, and using visuals for comprehension and organization as well as expression.The course video is split into 2 parts for your convenience: part 1 is 56 minutes and part 2 is 57 minutes.


The first section of this course traces the history of the diagnostic concept of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), culminating in the revised criteria of the 2013 version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM-5, with specific focus on the shift from five subtypes to a single spectrum diagnosis. It also aims to provide epidemiological prevalence estimates, identify factors that may play a role in causing ASD, and list the components of a core assessment battery. It also includes brief descriptions of some of the major intervention models that have some empirical support. Section two describes common GI problems and feeding difficulties in autism, exploring the empirical data and/or lack thereof regarding any links between GI disorders and autism. Sections on feeding difficulties offer interventions and behavior change techniques. A final section on nutritional considerations discusses evaluation of nutritional status, supplementation, and dietary modifications with an objective look at the science and theory behind a variety of nutrition interventions. Other theoretical interventions are also reviewed.


This is a test only course (book not included). The book (or e-book) can be purchased from Amazon or some other source.This CE test is based on the book “Early Childhood Music Therapy and Autism Spectrum Disorders: Developing Potential in Young Children and their Families” (2012, 304 pages). This text includes the work of many researchers and practitioners from music therapy and related disciplines brought together to provide a comprehensive overview of music therapy practice with young children who present with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The authors present an overview of ASD including core characteristics, early warning signs, prevalence rates, research and theories, screening and evaluation. The book explores treatment approaches and strategies as applied in music therapy to the treatment of ASD. The authors present a wealth of practical applications and strategies for implementation of music therapy within multi-disciplinary teams, school environments and in family-centered practice.


Epidemiological studies indicate a progressively rising prevalence trend in the number of individuals identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) over the past decade. Yet, compared with general population estimates, children and youth with mild to moderate symptoms of ASD remain an underidentified and underserved population in our schools and communities. The DSM-5 conceptualizations of autism require professionals in clinical, school, and private practice settings to update their knowledge about the spectrum. In addition, professionals should be prepared to recognize the presence of risk factors and/or early warning signs of ASD and be familiar with screening and assessment tools in order to ensure that individuals with ASD are being identified and provided with the appropriate programs and services. The objectives of this course are to identify DSM-5 diagnostic changes in the ASD diagnostic criteria, summarize the empirically-based screening and assessment methodology in ASD, and describe a comprehensive developmental approach for assessing children, adolescents, and young adults with ASD.

Professional Development Resources
is approved by the Continuing Education Board of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA Provider #AAUM) to provide continuing education activities in speech-language pathology and audiology.

We can report to ASHA for you, as long as you check ‘yes’ to ASHA reporting in your account profile. We report to ASHA quarterly and the completion date that appears on your ASHA transcript is the last day of the quarter, regardless of when you completed your course.

We are also approved by the Florida Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology (Provider #50-1635) and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within 1 week of completion).