The present research was designed to study the applicability of Behavior Therapy in autistic children by using its techniques of positive and negative reinforcement. It was hypothesized that the behavior treatment both with positive and negative reinforcement would be effective to reduce maladaptive behavior of autistic children. It was further hypothesized that positive reinforcement would be more effective as compared to negative reinforcement and also there would be significant a difference in treatment outcomes with respect to the three degrees of autistic disorder (mild, moderate and severe).
The sample comprised of 120 autistic children, 56 girls and 64 boys, belonging to all socioeconomic levels with the age limit of 6 to 12 years. The selection was done after confirmation of Autistic Disorder with the administration of Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS, developed by Schopler, Reichler & Renner, 1986). The sample comprised of children coming independently or on the referral of different consultants and institutions of special education to a neuromuscular rehabilitation center of Karachi. It was divided into three equal groups, two treatment and one control group. The treatment packages consisted of the use of positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement. Previously, each child was made confirmed for displaying anyone of the three maladaptive behaviors taken for research purpose (Hitting, Crying and Non -compliance).
In order to determine the possible causes of target behaviors and selection of an effective reinforcer, Motivation Assessment Scale (MAS by Durand, 1.1990), was administered. The record of occurrence of target behaviors before and after the completion of 30 sessions was taken carefully.
T test for independent mean and ANOVA were applied for statistical analysis .It was concluded that behavior treatment, either with positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement is effective to reduce maladaptive behavior in autistic children. It was further concluded that positive reinforcement is more effective when compared with negative reinforcement. However no significant difference in treatment outcomes was found with respect to three degrees of autism.
Additional findings indicate that there are no significant differences in treatment outcomes of autistic children with respect to gender and different levels of co-existing mental retardation. However it was confirmed by results that autistic children with moderate level of mental retardation show better treatment results as compared to autistic children with mild level of mental retardation.
Recommendations and suggestions in addition to limitations of study have also been mentioned to be considered for future researches on behavioral treatment of autistic children.