DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES INSTITUTE
THE YOUNG AUTISM PROGRAM
Over thirty years ago, a small
group of parents of children with autism established a school that would address their children’s special needs. The Developmental Disabilities Institute stands today as a testament of their undying
DDI is a regional center of excellence in the treatment of autism and related disorders.
With campuses located throughout Long Island the Institute provides educational, clinical, vocational, residential and medical services
to over 1500 children, adults and their families. In addition, DDI has been recognized for its contributions to the autism
research community. Each division and program at the Institute adheres strictly
to the mission of providing the help for our students and adults that leads them to productive lives in society.
In 1995, the Young Autism Program (YAP) was established
as an experimental program, utilizing the principles of Applied Behavioral Analysis to treat children diagnosed as having
Autism. It is a comprehensive effort that has the goal of returning autistic
children to regular kindergarten by age 6. It is among the most intensive programs
of its kind in the United States. The
outcomes thus far have produced results far exceeding what is typically found in the field of Autism.
Autistic children are accepted into YAP prior
to 48 months of age provided their school districts approve. Additionally, each
child’s parents must agree to receive training in order to continue their child’s treatment at home. Once admitted, children receive six hours a day of 1:1 therapy in school and another two hours daily at
Since autism affects a child’s ability to communicate and socialize with
others, the initial focus of our intervention is to treat each child’s difficulties in these two areas. Children receive continuous instruction in order to initially make beginning sounds, then words and phrases
and ultimately reciprocal conversation. Though children initially spend their
entire instructional day at YAP in Medford, as they progress,
we enroll them in nursery schools with typically developing children. During
this time, our students are taught to model the language and social behaviors of their peers.
This unique balance of 1:1 instruction and group practice continues until staff, parents and the school district agree
the child is ready to enroll in kindergarten.
It is well documented in the literature that at least 50% of the autistic population
remain functionally mute throughout their lives. Also, as many as 80% function
as mentally retarded. Previously these were thought to be characteristics of
autism. However, we are finding that, with very intensive instruction initiated
at a young age, these outcomes are not forgone conclusions. In fact, over 90% of the students enrolled in the Young Autism
Program for one year have learned to speak and will use speech as their primary form of communication. Additionally, by age 6, over 75% of our students move from IQ scores in the mentally retarded to scores
in the normal range of cognitive functioning.