The SCERTS Model

The SCERTS Model is a comprehensive, team-based, multidisciplinary model for enhancing abilities in Social Communication and Emotional Regulation, and implementing Transactional Supports for children and older individuals with autism spectrum disorders and their families. SCERTS is not an exclusive approach, in that it provides a framework in which practices and strategies from other approaches may be integrated, such as Positive Behavioral Supports (ABA), visual supports, sensory supports, and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). The SCERTS model can be used with individuals across a wide range of ages and developmental abilities.

The focus on Social Communication involves developing spontaneous, functional communication and secure, trusting relationships with children and adults. Emotional Regulation involves enhancing the ability to maintain a well-regulated emotional state so that the child is most available for learning and interacting. Transactional Support includes supporting children, their families, and professionals to maximize learning, positive relationships and successful social experiences across home, school and community settings. Objectives for the child are developmentally appropriate and may target both verbal and non-verbal forms of communication. SCERTS is a collaborative educational model in that families and educators work together to identify and develop strategies to successfully engage the child in meaningful daily activities.

SCERTS differs from the focus of "traditional" ABA that typically targets children's responses in adult directed discrete trials with the use of behavioral techniques to teach language. In contrast, the focus of the SCERTS model is on promoting child-initiated communication in everyday activities. SCERTS relies extensively on visual supports (e.g., photos, picture symbols) for supporting Social Communication and Emotional Regulation. SCERTS is based on child development research and research on the core challenges in autism, in a manner similar to Floor Time and RDI.

The SCERTS Model is most concerned with helping persons with autism to achieve “Authentic Progress”, which is defined as the ability to learn and apply functional skills in a variety of settings and with a variety of partners. All of a child's partners, including educators, therapists, parents, siblings and peers potentially play an important role in a SCERTS Model Program, because activities in which goals and objectives are addressed include daily routines at home and school, as well as special therapies and activities that have the potential to enhance abilities in independent and self-help skills. For example, mealtimes in home and school settings may have the same objectives that include using pictures, words and/or gestures to select food items, to observe and imitate partners in order to benefit from their social models, and to respond to a partners' attempts to support a good emotional state that results in sustained attention and active participation. Objectives in play and social skills may also be identified and targeted at school with classmates, as well as at home with siblings or friends.

A plan to support a child's emotional regulation across each day is also developed based on a child's needs. The plan may include regularly scheduled exercise and “regulating” breaks, opportunities for sensory and motor activities, and a plan used by all partners to modify learning environments. There is a great focus on partners being highly responsive and supportive in a flexible manner that depends on the child's emotional state, distractions in the setting, the child's success in the activity and the need for appropriate levels of support to actively participate. Partners also become expert at reading a child's signals of emotional dysregulation and responding with appropriate support as needed to maximize attention and learning and to prevent escalation into more problematic behavior (e.g., offering deep pressure, simplifying difficult tasks. clarifying tasks through the use of visuals – e.g., “ 2 more then we are all done”).

SCERTS is the most comprehensive intervention that I have seen in my relatively brief research on treatments for autism. The developers of the program are very cognizant that the ability of a child to participate in forward progress depends upon many factors, including emotional state, which is tightly correlated with my concept for the reservoir. Their program uses various coping strategies to monitor reservoir level including regular breaks, firm tactile pressure, and other techniques that vary from child to child. SCERTS also pays very close attention to the child's sense of cognitive appraisal, a key regulator of the impact of stress on the child. It is the most integrative of the treatments I have seen, and its recommendations correspond well with the conclusions I draw from my theory on autism. 


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