Autism Diagnosis on the Rise
The frequency of autism diagnoses has increased dramatically since the turn of the century, and has expanded to include the diagnosis of a spectrum of related disorders known as autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) SEED program, there have been about 1 in 68 children diagnosed on the autism spectrum scale. This is an approximate 119% increase from the year 2000. This rise can be attributed, but not limited to, genetic predisposition, an expansion of diagnostic assessments and criteria, increased surveillance and acceptance of autism due to better funding, and a broadened spectrum with which to classify since no formal classification separate from schizophrenia existed before 1980.
Due to the nature of in depth needs and services within the autism community, services cost US citizens $236-262 billion per year, with the majority of costs being directed towards adult care services. However, studies have suggested that costs of lifelong care are reduced by two-thirds on average with the onset of early diagnosis and intervention. Fortunately, SEED advises that children can effectively be diagnosed as early as 2 years of age. With organizations such as the Augusta Levy Learning Center, children now have the very best chance at getting the best start possible through early intervention.
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)
Augusta Levy Learning Center (ALLC) of Wheeling, West Virginia is the first intensive autism treatment program in the Ohio Valley. Augusta Levy seeks to develop and refine programs and services for students with special needs. Founded in 2005 by Kathy Shapell, the Augusta Levy Learning Center was established under the guidance of the Lovaas Institute for Early Intervention (LIFE), which utilizes methods pioneered by Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas of UCLA and his colleagues. Using Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), this intervention program is based on extensive clinical experience and more than 40 years of scientific research that yields the best educational results for children with autism.
Research suggests that one of the largest determining factors in student success is early intervention coupled with high intensity training. A scientifically validated method, the ABA method encourages a greater likelihood of successfully advancing through the school system with student performance falling within normal range on standardized intelligence tests, as well as a significant increase in social and emotional functioning and a higher level of learned life skills.
Heroes Training Heroes
The Augusta Levy Learning Center seeks to serve as a model for special education programs in the greater Ohio Valley and beyond through innovative programming, use of advanced teaching tools, and staff development training. Augusta Levy’s program is designed with students and families in mind, and aims to propel children with autism to reach their highest potential using four key guiding points. These points are central to Augusta’s students’ higher success rates.
Intense One-On-One Instruction: The Augusta Levy Learning Center focuses on high intensity learning. Each student receives 30-40 hours of 1:1 instruction weekly. As such, the Center ensures that each student has his or her own unique curriculum based on the child’s individual needs and abilities.
Parent Involvement: Another key factor to Augusta Levy’s success is Parental involvement which is also strongly encouraged with weekly training sessions available to parents as well as additional resources and provider information.
Highly Trained Staff: Augusta Levy prides itself in having a highly trained staff that is dedicated to providing the care and instruction that each student uniquely needs.
Results Oriented Approach: Augusta Levy’s program culminates in a results oriented approach in which two-thirds of its graduates successfully attend regular education classes. As a result, the students and families that work with the Center act with the expectation of a better quality of life for both the children and their families and an increased likelihood of success, both socially and academically, later in life.
2015 marks Augusta Levy Learning Center’s 10th year of service to Wheeling and the surrounding areas, and the staff and teachers are as committed as ever to developing and refining innovative programs and services for students with special needs. In the last decade, Augusta Levy has opened doors for school districts in the surrounding areas to increase special needs services, and has been an aid to the districts in developing resources and ABA organizations outside of the Center’s headquarters.