Monday, September 24 , 2018, 8:30 pm | Fair 60º

 
 
 
 

UCSB’s Robert and Lynn Koegel Honored for 30 Years of Research, Innovative Autism Treatments

Robert and Lynn Koegel present before the Association of Behavior Analysis. The couple received an award for their extensive work on autism intervention at the 42nd annual convention. Click to view larger
Robert and Lynn Koegel present before the Association of Behavior Analysis. The couple received an award for their extensive work on autism intervention at the 42nd annual convention. (Courtesy photo)

Fifty years ago, the treatment of people on the autism spectrum was barbaric. Electric shocks, confinement, LSD and more were in vogue at various points in the past.

Today, however, ongoing research has led to a revolution in treatments. One of the most successful, pivotal response treatment, was developed at the UC Santa Barbara Koegel Autism Center.

Created by Robert and Lynn Koegel, PRT is an intervention based on applied behavior analysis. A comprehensive approach to treating autism, PRT targets multiple areas of child development with motivational strategies that produce demonstrable improvements in social, communication and academic skills.

“The treatment used to be so awful for kids with autism,” said Lynn Koegel, clinical director of the Koegel Autism Center. “In fact, when I started, almost every single child with autism was institutionalized by adolescence, and sometimes even in the preschool years. And now, it’s just so rare. None of the kids are institutionalized, and almost all of them get to stay at home for as long as they need to.”

In recognition of their 30 years of work, the Association of Behavior Analysis honored the Koegels for their “enduring programmatic contributions in behavior analysis” at its 42nd annual convention in Chicago.

In their acceptance speech before more than 3,000 people in the audience, the Koegels gave a 10-minute presentation on the evolution of autism treatment and the challenges remaining. They also showed a video of a time when children were tied to their beds and treated with electric shock.

“We talked about how far we’ve come, but how far we have to go because there are so many areas that are still needing research in autism and treatment for autism, family stress, diversity and all kinds of things,” Lynn Koegel noted. “Nobody really knew what to do with the kids, so they developed these treatments that were pretty inhumane and for the most part ineffective. That seems like a long time ago, but in the scheme of things it’s really a short time that we’ve been able to have effective interventions.”

The Koegel Autism Center continues to research and develop treatments for autism. One of its newer initiatives is treating adults, an overlooked segment of those with autism. Many, Koegel said, have trouble finding and keeping jobs and living independently.

“There aren’t really any interventions for adults, and most of them end up living at home their whole life because they’re not independent enough to live out in the community,” she said. “We’ve published several articles showing that we can successfully work on some of these pre-job skills and some of these social job skills that are helpful for adults and even college students, and that it really helps reduce their anxiety and their depression and helps them get out there and meet friends and be in the community.”

The center also pioneered treatment for a much younger set: infants. In the past, most interventions didn’t begin until children were diagnosed with autism, usually at age 4 or 5.

“We started looking and seeing, maybe if we could intervene really early in life we could head off the downward spiraling trajectory and get them on a better developmental trajectory very early on,” Koegel said. “We’ve been focusing on some of the prelinguistic skills, which are mostly social, and engagement and being interested in people rather than objects, responding to their names and showing more eye contact, smiling more at their parents and things like that.

“And it looks like this early stuff is really time- and cost-effective because the parents can be trained to do it and it’s not like they’re really that far behind when they’re 4 months old,” Koegel continued. “We were thinking that maybe if we could get them really young before they’re even supposed to talk we could get them more fully engaged and maybe that would help their communication. It looks like we’ve been able to get them more social.”

One of the keys in PRT, Koegel said, is its focus on motivational strategies. Children play a big role in determining tasks, which shifts the activity from drudgery to delight.

“In the past, the intervention wasn’t much fun for them, so they’d spend most of their time trying to get out of the session or avoid the session,” Koegel said. “You had a lot of disruptive behavior and problem behaviors, but now, with our treatment it’s fun for them, so they’re more likely to want to engage in the intervention and not even realize they’re learning. If you don’t realize you’re learning, that’s a huge accomplishment.”

Jim Logan writes for the UCSB Office of Public Affairs and Communications.

 

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >