“Promoting Desired Lifestyles Among Adults with Severe Autism and Intellectual Disabilities: Person-centered applications of Behavior Analysis”

Authors: Dennis H. Reid and Mary Rosswurm

Read Dr. Woodard's Full Review:

In the book “Promoting Desired Lifestyles… ” the authors tell us about the importance of both the person-centered approach as well as behavior analysis. The authors walk the reader through a series of topics that include practical and useable, evidence-based strategies and interventions. While there is much written on children’s services, this book focuses on an adult population with Autism and Intellectual Disabilities. It is based on the idea that increasing individual preferences and lifestyle choices leads to an improved quality of life and a greater sense of happiness.

The book begins with a general introduction and description of applied behavior analysis (ABA), as well as the concept of person-centeredness. The authors then provide the reader with practical, person-centered strategies that are supported by behavior analytic research. The first of these is identifying preferences using Systematic Preference Assessments (SPAs) instead of the more commonly used method of the opinions of caregivers. Next, the authors tackle the task of identifying the private event of ‘happiness’ as well as ‘unhappiness’ by creating indices and monitoring for the presence or absence of these observable behaviors.

The authors move on to strategies that are designed to actively promote happiness and quality of life for adults with Autism and Intellectual Disability. This is suggested to be achieved through approaches such as fostering good relationships with staff and providing choice opportunities. The authors stress the need for organizations to be aware of “operational preferences” that may impede the actual preferences of the individuals supported. For example, does everyone in a residence really need to get up at the same time?

The final section of this book addresses special considerations and begins with encouraging teaching in a person-centered manner by gearing areas toward tasks that help to access preferences (such as skills to express preferences or skills to promote positive attention). Next, how do person-centered strategies integrate with approaches to problem behaviors and staff training? Many important concepts are presented for the reader including replacement behaviors to access reinforcement, avoiding punishment, using Human Rights Committees and peer review and behavioral skills training. These are essential components for any good program, all of which are part of Groden programs.

Finally, the reader is encouraged to treat the persons they support with dignity, worth and value. It is important to remember that the people we support all have preferences, hopes, dreams and ideas of their own that must be respected. This book stresses the need for conditions, practices and procedures that foster self-direction and self-advocacy that will hopefully become commonplace in time. We can also work to foster the many other determinants of happiness that the person brings to the life experience, such as self-efficacy, optimism, hope, humor, or courage.

Cooper R. Woodard, PhD, BCBA