Redwood's Approach

Our Instructional Approach

Children diagnosed with autism have consistently failed to understand and learn what typically developing children are able to acquire.  Consequently, this leads to increased amounts of frustration that result in higher than typical rates of negative and self-stimulatory behavior to prevent or escape future failures.  Therefore, we make every effort to modify the environment to maximize a child’s success and minimize failure.  Initially, instruction is delivered in a structured one-to-one setting.  Skills and concepts are systematically into small, measurable units of behavior.

Foundation skills such as compliance, nonverbal and verbal imitation, matching, one-step receptive actions, object labeling, and early toy play are targeted first.  As a child begins to master the foundation skills, tasks are systematically built into more complex combinations of typical, age-appropriate behavior (e.g., conversation, pretend/imaginary play, peer interactions, recalling past events).  Throughout the duration of one-to-one instruction we target deficits across all areas of functioning.  These areas include the development and acquisition of receptive and expressive language, toy play, peer play/socialization, abstract concepts, and self-help skills.  The program is specifically tailored to each individual child.  There is a general layout to how the programming progresses in the beginning, but individual learning patterns and deficits of each child are incorporated into instruction.  As significant progress is accomplished, the method of instruction systematically shifts to more natural teaching approaches and incidental learning techniques are added.  If any aspect of the program is particularly difficult, it is modified to accommodate a child’s specific needs.

How we structure instruction

Initially, we believe a child needs approximately 35-40 hours per week of one-to-one instruction in the home in order to learn appropriate behaviors and dissipate negative behaviors most effectively.  Cognitively demanding concepts are intermixed with less demanding concepts, and one-to-one instruction is interspersed with play activities.  Each instructional session lasts approximately 2-3 hours.  During a session, a child engages in a specific task for 1-3 minutes and then takes a short break (1-3 minutes).  A longer break (10 minutes) is taken each hour of a session.  During the time of the short and long breaks, instructors target generalization of mastered skills to everyday environments and the acquisition of spontaneous language.

Who provides instruction?

A team of 3-5 adults provides instruction.  Each team member should provide 6-12 hours of one-to-one instruction per week; enough time to establish procedural competence and a positive rapport, while not spending so much time that a child becomes dependent on any one member.  Parents are an integral part of the instructional team.  Initially, we recommend that parents provide 2-5 hours of one-to-one instruction per week, enabling them to maintain a consistent approach across all of their child’s waking hours, and generalize mastered skills to everyday environments.  Parents should attend all weekly staff meetings, participate in selecting new goals, offer observations, evaluate staff, and approve all procedures implemented.

School integration and placement Once a child learns appropriate foundation behaviors and skills, and negative behaviors have been reduced, he or she is then gradually integrated into an appropriate classroom.  This typically occurs within 12-18 months of starting the program.  The particular setting chosen is based on the child’s success in the period of one-to-one instruction in the home.  In all cases we want to provide a child with a setting conducive to maximizing success and minimizing failure, with the most appropriate models of social behavior and language.  A member of the instructional team accompanies the child to facilitate integration into the classroom routine, shift reinforcement to same age peers, and assist the child in acquiring new behaviors in a group setting.  Deficits that exist in the child’s behavioral repertoire in school are targeted in one-to-one instruction, and then generalized to school.  Initially, a child may spend as little as 30 minutes a day in class.  As a child is successful, class time is systematically increased.  Eventually, a child will attend school full-time (3-6 hours per day), and participate in one-to-one instruction 15-20 hours per week.  As a child demonstrates the ability to learn and function successfully without additional assistance, one-to-one instruction and the shadow instructor are carefully faded out.