The Dive Into Autism Partnership Method and Shaping Levels

Autism is a broad spectrum, and its understanding has come a long way. Among the methodologies adopted to address and understand autism better, the Autism Partnership Method stands out. Let’s delve deeper into this method, especially its shaping component and the levels involved in it.

The Autism Partnership Method: A Brief Overview

Autism Partnership Method (APM) is an approach that amalgamates applied behavior analysis (ABA) techniques with a personalized touch. It acknowledges that every individual on the spectrum has unique needs, strengths, and challenges. The goal? Tailoring interventions to suit each individual.

Why is APM Different?

While many approaches broadly cater to autistic individuals, APM fine-tunes its techniques. For instance, while a standard method might use a cookie-cutter solution, APM looks at the individual’s specific triggers and tailors the response.

Unpacking Shaping in APM

Shaping, as a technique, is no stranger to behavioral sciences. In APM, shaping is like molding clay – gentle, iterative, and purposeful.

Understanding the Levels in Shaping

Shaping involves levels, each escalating in complexity and expectation. These levels help professionals gauge where an individual stands and how interventions should be paced.

Incremental Steps: Shaping doesn’t rush. It takes one step at a time, ensuring the individual is comfortable before progressing.

Flexibility: Levels in shaping aren’t rigid. They flex based on individual progress, ensuring no undue pressure.

Practical Examples of Shaping in APM

Let’s picture a scenario. Imagine a child, Sam, who struggles with verbal communication.

Level 1: Recognizing Intent

Before Sam speaks, he makes a sound or gesture. Here, the shaping process begins by recognizing and reinforcing these subtle cues.

Level 2: Encouraging Effort

As Sam becomes more consistent in his gestures, the focus shifts. The emphasis now is on encouraging any vocalization, even if not clear words.

Level 3: Refinement

Now, Sam tries to vocalize words. The shaping process, at this level, refines these attempts, guiding Sam towards clearer pronunciation.

Level 4: Combining Words

Once Sam is comfortable with single words, shaping now pushes for combined words or small sentences.

The Magic Behind APM’s Shaping Levels

APM’s shaping methodology is reminiscent of teaching a toddler to walk. Do you remember those first wobbly steps? It’s not about the destination but the journey. The levels in shaping mirror this journey, nurturing growth at every stage.

Emphasis on Positive Reinforcement

It’s like a video game. Every achievement is celebrated, making the individual eager for the next level.

Individual-Centric Approach

Think of it like custom-tailored suits. It’s not one-size-fits-all but designed to perfection for each individual.

Navigating Challenges in APM Shaping

Like any methodology, APM and its shaping technique have challenges. Recognizing these is the first step in addressing them.

Tailoring Expectations: Understanding that every individual is different is essential. Professionals need to curate expectations based on individual capacity.

Time: Shaping is a slow process, demanding patience from caregivers and professionals alike.

Woman teaching a child with autism

The Core Principles of the Autism Partnership Method

The Autism Partnership Method isn’t merely about interventions and shaping. It is built upon a foundation of core principles that make it stand out in the realm of autism therapies.

  1. Comprehensive Assessment: Before diving into any interventions, a thorough assessment of the individual is conducted. This helps in understanding their strengths, areas of challenge, and provides a roadmap for tailored interventions;
  2. Collaboration: APM isn’t just about the individual with autism. It actively involves families, educators, and other key figures in the individual’s life. By doing so, it ensures a consistent approach across different settings;
  3. Data-driven: Every decision in APM is backed by data. Regular data collection helps in assessing the progress and adjusting the interventions accordingly;
  4. Generalization: It’s not enough for an individual to exhibit positive behavior in a controlled setting. The goal is to ensure they can replicate these behaviors in real-world scenarios.

Applications Beyond the Therapy Room

While APM is primarily therapeutic, its principles find applications beyond therapy rooms. Here are a few arenas where the method is making waves:

  • Educational Settings: Schools are incorporating APM to create inclusive classrooms where students on the spectrum can thrive alongside their peers;
  • Home: Parents and caregivers use APM principles to establish routines, handle challenging behaviors, and promote positive ones;
  • Workplaces: With neurodiversity becoming a focal point, employers are leveraging APM to create autism-friendly workplaces.

Decoding the Levels of Shaping: A Table Representation

Understanding the levels in shaping can seem daunting. Here’s a table to simplify it:

1Recognizing IntentResponding to a child’s gesture or sound
2Encouraging EffortPraising any form of vocalization
3RefinementGuiding towards clearer pronunciation
4Combining WordsEncouraging the use of small sentences or phrases

A Glimpse into the Future of APM

As research continues and more data is gathered, APM is bound to evolve. Here’s what the future might hold:

  • Integration with Tech: Imagine wearable devices giving real-time data, helping in refining the APM interventions;
  • Virtual Reality (VR) Therapies: Using VR to simulate real-world scenarios, providing individuals a safe space to practice their skills before stepping out into the world;
  • Greater Collaboration with Mainstream Education: Schools might soon have dedicated APM professionals, ensuring students on the spectrum get the best support right from the early years;
  • Tailored Apps: With smartphones being ubiquitous, apps tailored to support individuals and families using APM might soon become a reality.
The word "Autism" on wooden cubes next to puzzles


The Autism Partnership Method is a beacon of hope, illuminating the intricacies of autism and offering tailored solutions. Shaping, with its levels, is an embodiment of patience, understanding, and positive reinforcement. As we navigate the world of autism, understanding such methodologies gives us tools, hope, and most importantly, a direction.


What is the Autism Partnership Method?

It’s an approach that combines ABA techniques with a more personalized strategy, focusing on individual needs.

How does shaping work in APM?

Shaping is an iterative process, focusing on small, positive changes, and reinforcing them.

Are the levels in shaping fixed?

No, they are flexible and are adjusted based on the individual’s progress and comfort.

Why is positive reinforcement emphasized in shaping?

Positive reinforcement encourages individuals, making them more receptive to the shaping process.

Can every individual with autism benefit from APM?

While APM is beneficial, its effectiveness can vary based on individual characteristics. It’s essential to consult with professionals for a tailored approach.