Elementary grade classrooms in the Special Education Department subscribe to an Evidence based model developed by the PaTTAN Autism Initiative using the science of Applied Behavioral Analysis with an emphasis on teaching communication through the analysis of Verbal Behavior. Not to be confused with a primary focus of vocal behavior or speech production, this approach is broad and inclusive of all forms of language including sign language, written language and picture exchange. Intensive instructional teaching practices include errorless teaching, fluency training, Natural Environment Training (NET), social skills, and group participation.
Learning and language milestones are assessed to include making requests (mands), tacts (labeling), imitation, answering questions (intraverbals) and listener response. Play, early academics, classroom skills, social skills as well as common acquisition barriers are further assessed to address students needs including behavior challenges. The mand, tact and intraverbal are classified as expressive language. Imitation skills are also taught. Imitation, when verbal at all, is akin to the echoic for ASL, so it is in this context, expressive language while listener response is receptive language. Procedures build from simple skills to more complex skills.
Level One: targeted skills for early learners which include but are not limited to observational/attending skills, context control responses, and following receptive commands all of which include high rates of active responding and delivery of reinforcement on a rich variable delivery schedule. Visual perceptual skills, motor imitation, match to sample, social behavior and play are addressed at this level.
Level Two: targeted skills for intermediate level learners include expansion of level one skills such as listener response by function, feature and class, and intraverbal skills. Routines and group skills are also addressed at this level.
Level Three: acquisition of skills needed for effective instruction in a less restrictive environment are targeted at this level. With basic skills firmly established in levels one and two, advanced level skills are more complex and incorporate reading, writing and math skills.
With the guidance of Board Certified Behavior Analysts with PaTTAN’s Autism Initiative, and an Internal Coach on-site, all staff working with students in this approach receive intensive training and receive up to 14 hours of direct consultation each month. With highly structured classroom organization, comprehensive data collection systems, parent communication and training, and consideration of motivational variables that increase the likelihood of student cooperation are procedures central to our instructional approach. We strive for students to acquire skills and competencies that lead to independence with essential academic, personal, and employment skills.