Devereux New York - Millwood Learning Center
The primary objective of the Devereux Millwood Learning Center (DMLC) is to assist students with autism spectrum disorders in reaching their highest potential and ultimately achieving success in the least restrictive environment possible. The broad spectrum of methods derived from the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis guide our programming efforts. Unlike their typically developing peers, students with autism require low student teacher ratios, high levels of consistency, repeated presentations of learning material, individualized motivators, systematic use of prompts, strategic planning for generalization, and careful selection of instructional material in order to learn effectively.
Toward this end, an individualized education plan (IEP) for each student is developed in conjunction with the parents and their child’s home school district. The domains of behavior to be included in an IEP include, but are not limited to:
Although the domains listed above will likely be represented in every student’s IEP, the degree of emphasis will vary across students given their strengths and needs.
- learning readiness and pre academic skills;
- communication (receptive and expressive);
- cognitive and academic skills (reading, writing, mathematics);
- daily living skills (self-help, home living)
- socialization and leisure skills (independent, cooperative, and symbolic play);
- motor (gross and fine motor);
- pre vocational, vocational skills and community living skills;
- and reduction of challenging behaviors that interfere with learning.
The majority of skills that the students learn in the domains of appropriate academics (english/language arts, mathematics, social studies and science) connect to the New York State Learning Standards for Students with Severe Disabilities.
The goals and objectives on the student’s IEP are selected based upon an assessment of current progress, profiles of strengths and levels of adaptive skills, and needs for less restrictive services and future placements. In order to provide effective instruction and meaningful outcomes, DMLC students participate in both standardized and curriculum-based assessment procedures. The global assessment devices typically used at DMLC include a measure of adaptive behavior (i.e. AAMR Adaptive Behavior Scale-School Version; Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale) and a measure of early learning and language skills (i.e. Assessment of Basic Langague and Learning Skills (ABLLS)). These assessments are completed on a yearly basis, and parents may be asked for input. Other specialized assessments may be completed as necessary (i.e. achievement tests, behavioral measures, sensory or motor profiles, vocational preference assessments, etc.).
It is the philosophy of DMLC that the reduction of behaviors that interfere with learning is to be accomplished by the least-restrictive, effective method available within the domain of applied behavior analysis interventions. A pro-active, positive approach is used to effect change in these behaviors. To develop behavioral interventions, staff begin by conducting a functional behavioral assessment (FBA). All behaviors are defined operationally in observable and measurable terms. Tools used to gather information include direct observation, antecedent-behavior-consequence data and functional assessment interviews. This analysis isolates and identifies a hypothesized function of the specific behavior to be changed. These data are pre-intervention measurements that are used as a basis of comparison to determine if interventions are effective.
Parents and guardians are regarded as a valuable source of information regarding their child’s behavior. During monthly clinics, parents will be requested to contribute to the information gathering process by providing qualitative information based on observations made within the home setting. It is also necessary to review all information regarding possible side effects from psychotropic medications as undiagnosed or diagnosed conditions might sometimes produce or exacerbate behavior problems. Parents will be asked to review any behavior support plan for approval before it is implemented.
Individual behavior support plans will be developed for each target behavior. Information gathered during a functional assessment that determines what factors are maintaining the target behavior will be used in the development of the plan. Behavior support plans will involve multiple intervention components including the following:
Prevention strategies involve identifying situations in which the targeted behavior is most likely to occur and adapting the environment to reduce the likeliness of the behavior. Examples of prevention strategies are making curriculum changes, increasing choice, reducing demands or improving the meaningfulness of tasks.
Data will be taken and graphed to evaluate progress and monitor interventions. Changes to the plan will be made if targeted reductions are not attained.
Positive Reinforcement will be used to increase and strengthen appropriate behaviors. Regular reinforcement assessments will be conducted to ensure rewards are motivating to the student. Reinforcement will be systematically faded from primary to social and natural reinforcement when doing so does not diminish the student’s success. Examples of reinforcement plans include differential reinforcement of other behaviors, differential reinforcement of incompatible behaviors or differential reinforcement of low rates of behavior.
Adaptive alternatives will be taught to provide the child with an appropriate means toward their desired result. Adaptive alternatives include communication and social skills, sensory alternatives, or play/leisure skills.
A Consequence will be implemented should the target behavior occur despite these positive programming strategies. All consequences will be implemented immediately, consistently and neutrally. Examples of consequences include ignoring behavior, response cost, positive practice, or removal from stimulus.
Students at DMLC are eligible to receive the related services of Speech Language, Occupational and Physical Therapies as indicated on their IEPs. Depending on the nature of the target skill, related services may take place as individual, group, pull-out, or push-in formats. Although the related services provided are not based on the principles of applied behavior analysis, we are able to successfully coordinate the disciplines by targeting the same goals and objectives and taking data on the effectiveness of related service interventions to generalize into the natural environment.
Scope of practice of each related service:
Speech therapists work on expressive and receptive language and pragmatic skills of social interaction and conversation. The speech therapists at DMLC will evaluate, plan and implement specific treatment programs for students to be implemented in speech sessions as well as in the classroom. The speech therapists promote the use of verbal language in all of our students. Assistive technology, in the form of pictures, vocal output devices, and/or sign language is used to assist and augment the production of speech and communicative behavior. It is the hope of the speech therapists that the students progress from individual implementation of speech sessions to group implementation of speech sessions.
Occupational Therapy is the use of purposeful activity with individuals who are limited by physical injury or illness, psychosocial dysfunction, developmental or learning disabilities or the aging process in order to maximize independence and maintain health. Here at DMLC, the practice encompasses evaluation, treatment and consultation. Specific services include: daily living skills, fine motor skills, handwriting, developing perceptual-motor skills and sensory integration functioning; developing play skills and prevocational and leisure capabilities; designing or requesting adaptive equipment; and using specifically designed crafts or games and exercises to enhance functional performance.
Physical Therapy assesses gross motor functioning and develops a program of enriching activities, exercises and play that promote normal movement patterns and skill development. Some area of focus in physical therapy include: balance and equilibrium; muscle tone and strength; range of motion/flexibility; movement and gait patterns; sensory integration issues; gross motor skill acquisition (i.e. jumping, hopping, skipping, running, ball play, etc.); and functional mobility (i.e. walking, climbing, stair climbing, playground use, assistive devices and adaptive equipment).
Inclusion Philosophy and Programming
DMLC will offer a supported inclusion program to those students who have prerequisite behaviors identified as enabling them to succeed in a mainstream environment. All children have unique strengths and will be considered as inclusion candidates where the home school district agrees to engage in ongoing planning with DMLC. This experience required the active participation of the child’s home school district, and issues such as willingness, distance and availability of appropriate staff or activities may impact our ability to provide this service to all students. Ideally, the inclusion candidate should require gradually diminishing levels of indirect and direct administrative support as the home school district develops greater competency at adapting curriculum and developing supportive behavior programming under the guidance of DMLC personnel.
Since autism involves impairment of the ability to transfer knowledge and generalization of skills learned, training is most effective when it takes place and establishes routines in the actual environment in which the behavior is expected to occur. Because the long term objective for our teenage/young adult students is for them to work, earn a salary and be independent, DMLC offers training to its students in the local community. In the community, we target daily living skills and pre-vocational skills that are necessary to maintain independent living and competitive employment upon graduation.
When it is age appropriate, we give our students the opportunity to become familiar with a variety of volunteer situations in the community that utilizes their strengths and matches their interests. Each program is uniquely designed based on the responses of the individual. The services facilitate the personal outcomes of the student and use several methods, techniques, personnel and other resources to ensure the success of the prevocational opportunity. Data is collected in the community much as it is at DMLC; goals and objectives are defined, the accuracy and independence of student’s responses are recorded, progress is measured and changes are made to the program based on data collected.
Home programming Services
Since 2007, DMLC is fortunate to offer Devereux-supervised home ABA instruction with the participation of the referring school districts to some of our students. If your child is eligible for extended-day services as per their IEP, the district may consider DMLC as a possible service provider.
If Devereux is selected, staff and supervisors who know the child will work with them in the home setting to implement and generalize relevant IEP goals. This will allow perfect coordination of goals, instructional procedures, and behavior plan implementation from school to home. Parents are required to be present for this service and as such, will allow the parent an additional opportunity to observe their child and to learn other skills to effect change in their child.
If another agency is selected for extended day services, they are more than welcome to attend clinic meetings and observe the child in school (at the parent’s permission) in order to facilitate coordination of services across settings.