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A New Program for Direct Services: LifeLong Interventions

This article was contributed by Dr. Aleck Myers, the Clinical Director for the Autism Society of North Carolina.

Photo-393The Autism Society is excited to announce the inauguration of a new service to provide direct supports to children, youth, and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

What is LifeLong Interventions? Think early intervention, but for all ages. At the Autism Society of North Carolina, we recognize that people with autism are lifelong learners. So we plan to offer direct training to individuals of all ages, using the same or similar evidence-based practices that have been demonstrated to be so effective with children on the spectrum. We will utilize elements of protocols such as Structured Teaching, Pivotal Response Treatment, and other principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to teach socially appropriate behaviors, both in a natural environment and in discrete trial format.

What is “direct service”? At ASNC, we will use a tiered model. At the top will be our Clinical Director, Dr. Aleck Myers, a Licensed Psychologist, who will supervise other psychologists (LPAs) and Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) who will assist him in assessing each client’s needs, designing a treatment package to meet those needs, and scheduling, implementing, and monitoring the client’s progress. The training will be done by certified Registered Behavioral Technicians (RBTs) or Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBAs) paraprofessionals under the direct supervision of our LPAs, BCBAs, and Dr. Myers.

What is involved with LifeLong Interventions? LifeLong Interventions begins with a thorough clinical intake evaluation and functional assessment of need areas, including language and functional communication. Information is gathered for this intake from direct observation and from parents, family members, professionals, or others who know the individual well. The intake then guides us toward more formal assessments of areas such as verbal behavior, adaptive skills, attending, joint attention, imitation, communication, play, and social relations. From these, our clinical experts design an individualized treatment program to be implemented directly by our skilled paraprofessionals. Training programs combine both intensive and direct instruction and naturalistic teaching procedures depending on the learning activity and targeted skill. Early intervention programs may include, but are not limited to, interventions based on principles in common with evidence-based ABA programs such as the Early Start Denver Model, Pivotal Response Treatment, Verbal Behavior, Discrete Trial Instruction, and Structured Teaching interventions.

How often do the training sessions occur? LifeLong Interventions programming can occur from a few hours per week up to as many as 40 hours per week, depending on need and the individual’s schedule. Research has shown that the efficacy of ABA therapy increases as service time increases. As we complete our initial assessment, we will make a formal written recommendation on how many hours per week of treatment would best meet the individual’s needs.

Is parent/family training included? Yes. For maximum effect, a caregiver will receive training on some of the intensive training and the rationale behind it to extend the positive effects of the program.

How can people access this new service? To sign up or find out more, contact Dr. Myers at amyers@autismsociety-nc.org or 919-865-2271.

Is this available where I live? ASNC plans to start this program with a small number of individuals in the Triangle area, then expand to the areas served by the following ASNC offices: Asheville, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Greenville, and Greensboro. We will expand the program to regions based on interest level, so please let Dr. Myers know if you are interested even if you don’t reside in the Triangle area.

What does it cost? How can I pay for this service? There are a variety of funding sources, including some insurance policies and private pay. We hope to receive donations to be able to offer scholarships for this in the future. The most exciting news, though, is the coverage offered by the State Health Plan (SHP) to state employees, which began January 1. (For more on the SHP coverage, click here.) And yes, with the SHP, both ASNC and Dr. Myers are in-network providers.

For more information about our Clinical team and services provided, click here.


Applied Behavior Analysis FAQs

ABA therapy xWhile LifeLong Interventions employs a variety of effective methodologies, many of its interventions use the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

Q: What is ABA?

Applied Behavior Analysis is the scientific study of behavior. In practice, ABA is used to promote the acquisition of socially appropriate behaviors and reduction of interfering behaviors by systematically changing environmental variables and strengthening appropriate replacement behaviors.

Q: Who can benefit from ABA services?

ABA is often used as a treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Though many treatment practices are advertised as interventions for ASD, Applied Behavior Analysis is one of the few that is evidence-based and has been shown to be widely effective and safe, based on scientific research.

Q: Who can provide ABA services?

In North Carolina, ABA therapy currently can be delivered only directly by or under the supervision of a professional holding a state license in psychology. These individuals may be licensed at the doctoral level (LP) or as a master’s-level psychological associate (LPA). Practitioners delivering direct services must have extensive training in the field of behavior analysis and may hold a behavior analysis certification (BCBA) in addition to their license. Paraprofessionals who are highly trained in ABA principles and strategies may deliver direct services under the supervision of a licensed provider who has developed a comprehensive ABA program tailored to the individual receiving services.

Q: What does direct ABA therapy look like?

While the structure and type of therapy delivered will vary depending on the individuals served and their unique needs and learning styles, ABA providers in general will use intensive teaching procedures to reinforce appropriate social behaviors during the therapy session. At ASNC, direct services are provided by a well-trained paraprofessional who is supervised by a psychologist and BCBA.

Q: What skill areas can ABA therapy help to address?

ABA typically focuses on increasing communication and language acquisition, developing age-appropriate social skills, and establishing pre-academic skills, such as attending to a task and following directions. In addition to those domains of functioning, ABA throughout the lifespan can also be used to teach independence with activities of daily living, community living and safety skills, and vocational tasks.

Q: Who is eligible to receive ABA services?

The guidelines for eligibility to receive ABA services will often be determined by individual insurance companies. However, a diagnosis of ASD is typically necessary to qualify for services. To determine individual eligibility for receipt of ABA services, contact your insurance company. If your insurance provider does not offer ABA benefits at this time, you may consider contacting ASNC to explore private payment options. See the other inset for information about ABA coverage under the State Health Plan.

Aleck Myers, Ph.D., LP, HSP, can be reached at amyers@autismsociety-nc.org.


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