The University of California at Los Angeles Young Autism Project model (sometimes known as the UCLA YAP model, ABA, early intensive behavioural intervention, EIBI or the Lovaas method) is a comprehensive, highly structured and intense programme designed to help very young children on the autism spectrum.
Programmes such as the UCLA YAP model are based on the idea that autistic children struggle to understand and to communicate with other people, and react to such frustrations with tantrums and other challenging behaviours. The teaching team therefore constructs a teaching environment which is designed to maximise the child's success and minimise failure. Desired behaviour, such as use of language or socialisation, is positively reinforced and accompanied by lots of praise. Negative behaviour, such as self harm or aggression towards others, is not reinforced.
The UCLA YAP model uses a variety of specific teaching methods including discrete trial training, discrimination training and incidental teaching although the therapists may also use a wide range of other interventions, such as sign language and the Picture Exchange Communication System, to suit the needs of the individual child.
The UCLA YAP model is very intensive (up to 40 hours training a week) and is usually delivered by parents and one or more consultants. The consultant develops and oversees a programme personalised to the needs of the individual child and designed to cover all relevant developmental areas.
Please note: There are some other models (such as the Murdoch Early Intervention Program) which are very similar to the UCLA YAP model and we have included them in this evaluation.
There is strong research evidence to suggest that some early intensive behavioural interventions – such as the UCLA YAP model – appear to help some autistic children.
However, each autistic child is different and will respond differently to the treatment, with some making more gains in some areas than others.
For some children, alternative interventions, such as those focusing on parent child interaction or specialist pre-school placements, may produce very positive results; school based programmes also offer greater opportunity for interactions with peers.
If any type of EIBI is undertaken, it is important to consider any benefits against the possible impact on the child (in terms of the intensity and possible stress of the intervention) and on the families (in terms of time, finances, organisation, and effects on siblings).
It is also important to identify the rewards that are likely to work for the individual child, as many children with autism do not find verbal praise, clapping or touching to be rewarding.
Please read our Disclaimer on Autism Interventions