3 Pillars of ACA
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
Autism Compassion Africa is a center that utilizes the science of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to impact all areas of development for children with autism. Such developmental areas include: communication, social skills, daily living skills, academics, play/leisure, vocational skills, and general challenging behavior reduction. When implemented by a knowledgeable Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), such as our director Whitney Hammel, ABA is an effective treatment for children on the autism spectrum. Such outcomes include: increase in pro-social behaviors (e.g. waiting, social skills, on-task behavior etc.), increase in learned skills (e.g. communication, academic, daily living etc.), generalization of skills across environments and people, as well as decrease in maladaptive and interfering behaviors (e.g. self-injury, aggression, stereotypy, etc.). Applied Behavior Analysis is the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree (Baer, Wolf, Risley, 1968). ABA is driven by daily data collection and analysis of that data. The field of ABA has been producing data driven research for over 50 years and is respected as the gold standard for autism therapy. The US Surgeon General also recommends ABA as treatment for children with autism. The center is overseen by an on-site Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), who trains staff, assesses students, develops educational and behavioral programs, and provides individualized on-going supervision to each case. Autism Compassion Africa uses ABA to create, monitor, and build upon individualized education plans (IEP). The yearly IEP consists of 15-20 goals individualized to that child, that is developed with the help of the family members. Goal areas include; behavior reduction (i.e. tantrums, self-injury, aggression, stereotypy, etc.), academic, communication, social, play/leisure, and daily living skills (i.e. brushing teeth, feeding, toileting, etc.).
Austim Compassion Africa takes a whole family approach. Monthly informational training’s will be offered to the families as well as open for the community to attend. Such training’s include; The ABCs of Autism, Picture Exchange Communication (PECS), Toilet Training, Challenging Behavior Reduction, Using Task Analysis to Teach Daily Living Skills, and many more. Before beginning the community/parent outreach training’s, a survey will be sent to parents and interested parties in the community. This will ensure topics covered during training’s are ones of interest and value to those in the community. Feedback forms will also be collected after each training from those in attendance and changes to the program will be made when appropriate. These workshops may also be delivered and translated into local languages such as Twi or Fante. In addition to monthly outreach training’s, parents are also encouraged to visit for observations and in-school 1:1 parent training’s. Once the center is more established, we would like to start home visits 1-2 times per month which will target goals in the natural setting with the parents.
ABA consulting with schools, families and community organizations is available across West Africa.
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Autism Compassion Africa also promotes autism awareness through community events as well as educational workshops to educators, religious/political/community leaders, and healthcare providers. The center will collaborate with those in the community who are working in the field of autism and autism awareness. One such group includes CHIP International, a US based nonprofit, that brings professionals in the field of autism to speak in Ghana each year. Many individuals and organizations have already begun the long road of raising awareness for autism in Ghana, such as Autism Action Ghana. We want to support their efforts as well as work as a team to continue to raise such awareness.
ACA plans to create awareness campaigns through a variety of media sources while also including public service announcements in local languages across Ghana.
As of Oct 2017 there were 8 Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) in all of Africa; with Whitney Hammel being the only one of two BCBAs in all of West Africa at this time. In addition to helping children and families of those affected from autism, ACA will also educate and supervise future special educators. Specifically, local staff will have the opportunity to become Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) or Board Certified assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBA) through partial financial assistance of online courses as well as in-person supervision with relevant experience working at the center. This supervision can only be provided by a current BCBA, such as the director of ACA. We believe that providing this important dissemination of Applied Behavior Analysis across Ghana will help to create sustainability for the center as well as help to disseminate ABA to support more families and children with autism. ACA has set a goal of producing 5 of BCBAs or BCaBAs by year 5 completion.
ACA is currently supporting 5 staff in Ghana and 2 in Nigeria to complete their coursework and supervised fieldwork requirements.
Autism Compassion Africa plan to open our doors in October of 2017 serving four students and increasing the number of students by no more than four every six months.
Years 1-3: We have started small and will scale up as we become grounded in the community and build trust with local families. Autism Compassion Africa will start the first year operating a classroom of up to 8 children in a rented space.
We will focus on becoming ingrained in the autism community across Ghana and provide outreach workshops to educators, religious/political leaders, parents and healthcare workers.
Years 3+: The progress data collected from working with each student will help us to be able to apply for grants to fund the purchasing of land and building a full center.
After 2-3 years of teaching in a rented space with up to 24 students, we project that Autism Compassion Africa will have raised the funds to build a school to serve up to 48 children.
The school will have 6 classrooms, a playground, an indoor activity room, occupational therapy room, kitchen, a large staff training room, vocational training space, and staff offices. The goal is to fill the school by the 5th year of operation.
Years 5+: Each classroom will be full to capacity and at least 5 new BCBAs will be certified from the centre. These BCBAs may plan to stay at the center or go and spread their skills to other areas around Ghana.
Autism Compassion Africa will also look to assist other groups across Ghana who want to replicate the work we are doing at our center.
Years 10+: Autism Compassion Africa will begin transitioning those students who are ready into the general education setting with assistance. Autism Compassion Africa hopes to partner with a school to also start a transition classroom for students with autism in a general education school.
These students may attend the general education setting for various periods of inclusion time across the day such as math, physical education or art and the remainder time will be spent in the transition classroom working on skills that require more direct instruction.
Years 15+: Autism Compassion Africa will work to secure land and begin the process to building a residential facility. Cape Coast is known for their boarding schools. We would like to offer this service to families as some students need full time care, especially those with severe challenging behavior such as aggression and self-injury that require 24-hour care.
The residential facility will be modeled after the New England Center for Children in Boston where Whitney got her start in ABA and autism education.
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