Improving the Lives of Students with Autism by NOT Focusing on their Disability

Morten Haugland
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The Haugland Learning Center (HLC) employs the science of human behavior to enhance educational outcomes. This presentation from the 2017 Michigan Autism Conference emphasizes the importance of professional values and philosophy beyond standard treatment approaches, critiquing the reduction of ABA to mere diagnosis-based methods. It demonstrates how rejecting excuses linked to autism diagnoses can lead to significant improvements in both academic and social skills, supported by data from the implementation of the Morningside Model of Generative Instruction.

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This presentation will share how Haugland Learning Center (HLC) and its staff use the science of human behavior to improve educational functioning for children with autism. HLC is a private school in Ohio serving more than 300 students with an autism diagnosis. Focus will be on how our professional values and philosophy plays a role in the services we provide. Too often behavior analysts focus on the autism diagnosis and “canned” treatment approaches, missing the Analysis part of ABA. As a result, progress may be limited lending ammunition to those criticizing our science. This presenter believes that our values and how we approach interventions for individuals with autism play a significant role in the level of improvement for those we serve. HLC’s values include the statements: “Having Autism is not an excuse for lower expectation” and “Kids don’t fail because they have autism, but because they are not taught”. HLC is focusing on education rather than treatment and sets high expectations for all students. Staff are not allowed to use the label of autism as an excuse for a students’ failure to learn. Our students make significant improvements in academic and social functioning through focus on effective instruction based on our science. Data will be presented showing how the Morningside Model of Generative Instruction have produced great improvement across all academic areas. A critical overview of the components of our program will be shared.

About the Speaker

Dr. Morten Haugland, founder and CEO of Haugland Learning Center, started serving individuals with special needs from the time he immigrated to the US from Norway in 1990. After coming to the United States, he started working as a direct care staff in a group home for adults with disabilities. There he was introduced to behavior analysis by the staff Behavior Analyst, a graduate from Western Michigan University, and decided to pursue his education in behavior analysis. He completed his Bachelor Degree in Psychology from Northern Michigan University in 1994 and received a Masters Degree in Applied Psychology from St. Cloud State University in 1996. Dr. Haugland then completed his Ph.D. and a second Masters Degree in ABA and Special Education at The Ohio State University in 2000. After being a faculty at Otterbein College in Ohio, he started Haugland Learning Center (HLC), a school for children with autism in 2004. HLC currently employ about 230 staff and have 6 location around the state. Currently over 400 students across Ohio receive educational services from HLC. Dr. Haugland holds a national certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D). He helped start the Ohio chapter of ABAI and was instrumental in pushing legislation for Certified Ohio Behavior Analysts (COBA). His special interest area is effective instruction, Precision Teaching and the use of ABA principles in educational settings including effective classroom management strategies. He started the National Institute for Effective Instruction in 2015. This organization holds an annual conference on effective instruction in Columbus each year.

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Below is the entire open-access version of this video. It does not contain embedded questions or interactions like the CEU version of the module.

2 reviews for Improving the Lives of Students with Autism by NOT Focusing on their Disability

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    Great approach to strengths based treatment something often missing from education in general!

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    This is the beginning of a very valuable perspective. Behavior analysts often carry a mindset of trying to “fix” people, rather than one of meeting people respectfully, in mutual interaction. I think the ethics of least intrusive approaches, currently discussed in training animals, is highly relevant here (respecting/understanding the nature of a lion, rather than assuming it’s faulty when it doesn’t want its paws touched). I’ve learned that most of my “disabled” (adult, residential) clients function solely in the here and now; we see it as “disability”, rather than the nature of the lion. I consider it normal to constantly schedule my time, (and analyze my past), so I teach my clients to use schedules. Yet, many people learn meditation, or read Echart Tollie or Thich Nhat Hanh to learn mindfulness in the moment: decrease stress; improve health; increase fulfillment. My clients teach me to live in the moment. I can practice mindfulness at work: respectful, mutual relating.

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A portion of the proceeds from this module goes directly to the Michigan Autism Conference

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