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What is Autism?

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social interaction and functional and systematic communication, a presence of sensory-seeking/avoidance behaviors, as well as by unique strengths and differences. We now know that there is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.

The term “spectrum” reflects the wide variation in challenges and strengths possessed by each autistic person.

Autism’s most-obvious signs tend to appear between 2 and 3 years of age. In some cases, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. 

"When you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism." - Dr. Stephen Shore

Some facts about autism:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates autism’s prevalence as 1 in 68 children in the United States, with diagnostic observation favoring boys. In Africa, prevalence studies have not yet been conducted.

  • Around one third of people with autism are nonverbal

  • Certain medical and mental health issues frequently accompany autism. They include gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures, sensory processing issues, sleep disturbances, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and phobias.

  • Learn the signs and symptoms:

What is ABA? 

"Behavior analysis is a scientifically validated approach to understanding behavior and how it is affected by the environment. In this context, “behavior" refers to actions and skills. "Environment" includes any influence – physical or social – that might change or be changed by one's behavior. Behavior Analysis is commonly used as a method within intensive therapy models much as Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) and the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM).

What is ABA?

Behavior analysis focuses on the principles that explain how learning takes place. Positive reinforcement is one such principle. When a behavior is followed by a positive consequence, the behavior is more likely to be repeated. Through decades of research, the field of behavior analysis has developed many techniques for increasing and reducing behaviors. 


Behavior analysis is not therapeutic practice. Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is the use of these techniques and principles to promote meaningful and positive learning across a variety of populations. For young children with autism (our main client group), social guidance, communication facilitation, learning multi-step tasks such as handwashing, and replacing self-injurious behaviors with something less physically harmful that gives similar sensory feedback are all examples of therapeutic Applied Behavior Analysis.

Behavior analysts began working with young children with autism and related disorders in the 1960s. Early techniques often involved adults directing most of the instruction. Today, more and more methods are allowing the the child to take the lead. 


These techniques can be used in structured situations such as during a classroom lesson, as well as in "everyday" situations such as family dinnertime or the neighborhood playground. Some ABA therapy sessions involve one-on-one interaction between the behavior analyst and the participant, others utilize exclusively parent coaching. Group therapy can likewise prove useful.

How does ABA Benefit Those with Autism?

When used safely, ABA principles and techniques can foster basic skills such as orienting, attending, and communication, as well as complex skills such as reading, conversing and playing games at recess.

Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB):

The International Behavior Analysis Organization (IBAO):

Projects on Autism in Senegal

The Senegal Autism Network currently provides parent support and participates in awareness activities.

Email us at info.abasenegal@ for contacts.

CHIP International:

Diagnostic Hospitals

Fann Hospital, Keur Khaleyi child psychiatry center: news link

Diamniado child psychiatry center: contact

Thiaroye psychiatric center: contact

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