Early and Intensive Behavioral Intervention: Addressing Behavior Excesses and Deficits in Young Children with ASD
Early and Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) was pioneered by Dr. Ivar Lovaas and colleagues in the 1970s. Based on data from an outcome study published in 1973, Lovaas et al. hypothesized that treatment effects could be optimized if intervention was started early in the child’s life, and if intervention was comprehensive; that is, addressing all behavior excesses and deficits exhibited by a particular child. In addition, Lovaas argued that intervention had to be intensive; that is, it should provide a learning environment for the child throughout the whole day, be carried out in the child’s natural environment (such as at home and in school, rather than in an institution), and include persons who are part of the child’s natural environment (such as parents, teachers, peers). Finally, Lovaas argued that the children should enter typical classes to access typical peers to model appropriate behaviors, rather than attend special classes.
In his next outcome study, published in 1987, Lovaas evaluated the effects of this type of intervention and found that, as a group, children made significant progress in intellectual functioning and that almost half of the children succeeded in regular classes. Although creating a great deal of controversy, Lovaas’ seminal study provided hope for parents and professionals and opened up a whole new area of research.
What Defines Early and Intensive Behavioral Intervention?
A working hypothesis in contemporary EIBI is that children with autism have a learning deficit that is biologically based and is responsible for the behavioral deficits and excesses exhibited by these children. Moreover, it is argued that EIBI may help children overcome this learning deficit, enabling them to acquire behaviors demonstrated by typical children and eventually allowing some children to learn in a typical (non-behavioral) educational environment.
There are several key elements to an effective EIBI program. These elements must be included to have the best benefit for the child.
Reprinted with the permission of the Autism Society.
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