The acronym SCERTS refers to the following approach:
SC (Social Communication)= Functional communication, spontaneous emotional expression and safe, trustworthy relationships between a child with autism spectrum and his or her family.
ER (Emotional Regulation) = A minor suffering from this disorder develops a skill to regulate his or her emotional state, allowing him or her to deal with the pressure of daily life and be as available as possible to learn and interact with others socially.
TS (Transactional Support) = Development and implementation of support mechanisms to help adults respond to the needs and interests of a child, change and adapt the environment to suit the child and provide the tools necessary for the child to learn (such as communicating by means of drawing, written schedules, sensory aids). Specific plans are also developed to provide both social and emotional support to families and to foster collaboration among professionals.
The team that collaborated in the creation of this model includes Barry Prizant, Amy Wetherby, Emily Rubin and Amy Laurent, who have training in speech and language pathologies, special education, psychology, occupational therapy and family-centered practices.
SCERTS is an innovative educational and therapeutic model used on children with autism spectrum disorder, as well as their families. It provides special standards to help the child become a person who can communicate, with competence and self-confidence, while avoiding problematic behaviors that may interfere with learning and the development of the child's personal relationships. It is also designed to help families, teachers and therapists to collaborate as a team, carefully and in a coordinated manner, to boost the child's progress. (Prizant, Wetherby, Rubin, Laurent & Rydell, 2006).
It focuses on the main challenges facing children with autism spectrum and their families. This effort is conducted collaboratively between the family and professionals in charge of the child's treatment, to prioritize on the support required, to achieve the best long term results, as stated by the National Research Council, 2001; Educating Children with Autism). To do so, this educational model provides a plan, both for family members and for the school, to implement a comprehensive program based on evidence to improve the life quality of children and their relatives.
The SCERTS model applies to both children and adults with different development skills levels, including verbal and non-verbal individuals. It is a useful life model that can be used from the initial diagnosis, throughout school years and beyond. It may be adapted to meet the special demands of individuals with autism spectrum disorder in different social environments, including home, school, community, and work environments.
The SCERTS model includes a well-coordinated assessment process that helps the team measure the child's progress and determine the aids necessary for the social companions of the child (teachers, friends and relatives.) This assessment process guarantees that:
- Functional goals are established, which have significance and are appropriate to the development areas.
- Individual differences are respected in terms of learning style, interests and motivations of the child.
- Family culture and lifestyle are understood and respected.
- The child is kept busy doing meaningful, useful activities during the day.
- Materials are used and developed in a consistent manner by all the companions of the child, in every activity and environment.
- The progress of the child is systematically measured.
- The quality of the program is frequently assessed to make sure it's implemented correctly.
SCERTS provides a systematic method that guarantees the selection of specific skills and appropriate aids based on educational objectives to apply these consistently during the child's daily life. This model allows the family and education teams to choose among different practices available to provide a program that effectively develops the child's knowledge and skills.
One of the most important qualities of SCERTS is that it incorporates and allows to combine practices from other programs, such as Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), Primary Response Training (PRT), Learning Experiences: Alternative Program for Preschoolers and their Parents (LEAP), Treatment and Education of Children with Autism and Related Communication Problems (TEACCH), Floor time, Relationship Development Intervention (RDI), etc.
The SCERTS model is mainly different from the "traditional" ABA method, a technique that focuses primarily on the reaction of children to direct tests conducted by an adult, by promoting child-initiated communication during the daily activities and leverages intensively on research conducted on child and human development. It aims at helping persons with autism achieve "Authentic Progress", defined as the skill to learn and apply relevant, functional skills to several people and environments in a spontaneous manner.