Our ABA Research
Since our 2004 beginning, one of our major objectives has been to help fill the gap in Australian-specific Autism research into ABA therapy’s effectiveness. Compared to the US, UK and Canada, Australian awareness of, and research on, ABA therapy’s effectiveness is limited. This knowledge gap is a barrier to building public and private sector support for intensive ABA therapy delivery to Australian children with ASD. It is also a barrier to families pursuing this therapy for their children on the spectrum.
We have collected assessment test results and sessional data on almost every child who has graduated from our Full-Service Model. As a result, we are in the exceptional position of possessing a wealth of information on a cohort of 40+ Australian children.
Study 1. Outcomes Following a Community-based Early Intensive Behaviour Intervention (EIBI) Program for Children with Autism in Australia
We have recently completed this first study to analyse these children’s outcomes, e.g. how many achieved ‘best outcomes’ and what skill gains they achieved. The study shows how children progressed through their ABA programs and demonstrates the effectiveness of our Full-Service Model. It is distinctive as the only research conducted to date on the effectiveness of intensive, early intervention, home-based ABA programs conducted exclusively on a community-based cohort of Australian children.
Study 2. The Identification of Variables Linked to Predicting Outcomes for Children with Autism
This second study, currently underway, explores the potential predictive links between the development of key skills early in intervention and later overall outcomes. This information will provide important insight into how the nature of a child’s response to their ABA program impacts his or her pathways. We are studying factors such as a child’s baseline strengths and weaknesses in certain skill areas to help reveal what kind of progress a child might make in those areas and their links with the child’s overall outcome at graduation.
We remain committed to regularly recording and analysing information—including individual sessional data and assessment testing—to support our decision making around our program design and supervision as well as to demonstrate the significant outcomes we achieve.
Study 3. Parent Stress and Early Intensive Behaviour Intervention
We are undertaking a third research study to analyse parent stress around their children’s ABA programs. On the one hand, the support and proactive treatment a family receives via their child’s ABA program can be extremely positive. On the other, the all-consuming experience of receiving up to 40 hours a week can be overwhelming. Our parents continue to complete a series of stress measures when their children begin our Full-Service Model and when they have completed one year of the program.
By helping us to understand what elements of ABA therapy do, or do not, heighten parental stress, this study will give us important insight into how we can better support parents during the therapy process.
L4Life Educational and Development Psychologist, Research Coordinator and Program Supervisor Sarah Wood is leading these studies with consultation from L4Life’s Research Subcommittee: Dr Amanda Sampson (L4Life Co-Founder, Co-Patron and President of ABIA), Emma Miller (Clinical Director), Sara Allen (Provisional Psychologist, Program Supervisor and Research Assistant), and Dr Mary Christian (former Board member and long-time research supporter at L4Life).
Monash University Mindfulness Project
As part of our concern about therapy delivery and parent stress, in September 2015 the Research Subcommittee began collaborating with Angelika Anderson and Dennis Moore from Monash University on a Mindfulness Project. The project involves one of their PhD students conducing an eight-week Mindfulness program with parents of children enrolled in our Full-Service Model. Monash, with L4Life, are collecting the data to identify whether a Mindfulness Program specifically designed for parents of children with Autism can alleviate parents’ stress and anxiety and impact the rate of children’s learning.