The purpose of this manual is to describe how an evidence-based approach stemming from ABA research and application can be used to change the focus of activities in center-based programs for adults with autism and other developmental disabilities from nonmeaningful to meaningful. It is primarily intended for practitioners such as behavior analysts and others who work with center-based programs and are interested in ensuring such programs provide therapeutic, productive, and enjoyable supports and services for the programs’ consumers. It is also intended for executive and supervisory personnel associated with center-based programs who are likewise interested in providing truly meaningful day services.

Throughout this book, the target population of reference within center-based programs is adults with autism. However, the information is relevant for adults with other developmental disabilities as well because center-based programs usually serve people with all kinds of disabilities as noted previously. Additionally, the content focuses heavily on adults with autism on the severe end of the spectrum. The latter individuals often make up the largest component of center-based participants along with adults who have other types of severe disabilities relative to people with more mild challenges as also referred to earlier.

Because the intended readership of this book is primarily practitioners, initially the role of behavior analysts and other clinicians in center-based programs will be summarized in regard to how the meaningfulness of the programs’ activities (and lack thereof) affects fulfilling that role. Chapter 2, Current Professional Consensus Regarding Meaningful Activities, then describes the current professional consensus regarding what constitutes more-to-less meaningful day supports for adults with developmental disabilities including autism. Next, an evidence-based protocol that practitioners can use to help move a center-based program’s activities from less to more meaningful is introduced in Chapter 3, An Evidence-Based Protocol for Improving the Meaningful Utility of Center-Based Activities. Subsequent chapters then describe in detail how to use the protocol, including specification of criteria for meaningful versus nonmeaningful activities that coincide with the existing professional consensus (see chapter: Specifying Criteria for Meaningful versus Nonmeaningful Activities), systematically assessing adult participation in meaningful activities using the established criteria (see chapter: Assessing Meaningful versus Nonmeaningful Task Participation), working with center staff to initiate meaningful activity participation (see chapter: A Staff Training and Supervision Plan to Increase Meaningful Activities), and maintaining such participation over time (see chapter: Maintaining Meaningful Activity Participation).

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