A Tale of Two Schools

Early intervention in a well-run program is the key to helping autistic children reach their potential. A close-up look at two approaches


Paraprofessional Dan Cherry engages in "Floortime" with Alex Jiminez at Linden School. The goal of the teaching method is to make an emotional connection with even the most withdrawn child.

From the moment parents absorb the shock that their child may be autistic, they enter a dizzying world of specialists, therapists and, alas, purveyors of snake oil. Getting the right help quickly is paramount, but it is hard to make good decisions when you are in a panic or fighting despair.

For the past 20 years, the dominant way to work with autistic children has been based on Applied Behavior Analysis. ABA derives from the classic work of psychologist B.F. Skinner, who showed--mostly in animals--that behavior can be altered with carefully repeated drills and rewards. In 1987, Ivar Lovaas at UCLA...

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