Project Description

Unlocking the full potential of Utah’s children with autism through early intensive behavioral intervention

Autism Spectrum Disorder, known as ASD or autism, is a general term used to describe a group of complex disorders of brain development and connectivity. ASD affects communication, social and emotional functioning, and often produces repetitive or restricted patterns of behavior or interest. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 68 American children are born with ASD.

At the present time, there is no known cause for autism nor is there any biomedical treatment or cure. However, researchers have developed effective interventions to help children and adults with autism. Effective interventions for individuals with ASD share three characteristics. First, they begin early, as soon as the child is diagnosed with ASD, usually by age 3. Second, interventions are intensive, ranging between 25-40 hours per week of individualized intervention. Third, interventions are based on the scientific principles of human learning, called Behavior Analysis.

In this presentation, Dr. Higbee will discuss The Autism Support Services: Education, Research, and Training (ASSERT) program at Utah State University. Founded in 2003 to address the needs of Utah’s children with autism and their families, ASSERT has a three-fold educational, research and training mission. To meet these aims, ASSERT estabilished a model classroom on the USU campus to provide effective, research-based intervention to 15 families in the Cache Valley area. Dr. Thomas Higbee and his research team study effective intervention techniques for children with ASD and disseminate this information to families and practitioners worldwide. Finally, the ASSERT Program provides training on effective behavioral interventions for children with ASD to USU students and teachers both throughout the state of Utah and beyond.

About Dr. Higbee

Dr. Thomas S. Higbee is a Professor of Special Education and Rehabilitation at Utah State University and Director of the Autism Support Services: Education, Research, and Training (ASSERT) program, an early intensive behavioral intervention program for children with autism that he founded in 2003. He is a doctoral-level Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D) and a Licensed Behavior Analyst in the state of Utah. His research focuses on the development of effective educational and behavioral interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders and related disabilities as well as the development of effective training strategies for teaching parents and professionals to implement effective interventions. He is a former associate editor for the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis (JABA) and a current associate editor for the European Journal of Behavior Analysis and the International Journal of Behavior Analysis and Autism Spectrum Disorders. Dr. Higbee is committed to the dissemination of effective behavioral interventions and has helped to create intensive behavior analytic preschool and school programs for children with autism and related disorders in Brazil, Russia, Portugal, and throughout his home state of Utah.  He is the past president of the Utah Association for Behavior Analysis (UtABA) and currently serves as a member of the Practice Board of the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) and the Psychologist Licensing Board of the state of Utah.