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Social Work Exam Practice: ASD Treatment

preschoolHere's a free practice question to help get you ready for the social work licensing exam:

A social worker provides consultation to a local preschool program. There's a four-year-old in the program who's been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The parents ask the social worker for help addressing their child's developmental issues. What treatment intervention is MOST likely to be helpful?

A. Cognitive Therapy

B. Family Therapy

C. Applied Behavioral Analysis

D. Play Therapy

What's your answer?

Let's walk it through. First off, the question step is unnecessarily wordy. The question could simply read, What is the treatment most likely to be helpful to a four-year-old diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder? The rest of the details (consultation, preschool program, parents asking) don't really affect your answer. But you're task as an exam taker is to pass the exam, not offer literary criticism. Stay focused on your goal: a PASS sheet and a new social work license. Ignore distractions like less-than-elegant question form.

What about the answers? Taking them one at a time:

A. Cognitive therapy. CBT is evidence based and helpful for lots of conditions. You could do pretty well with a "When in doubt, choose CBT" approach to the exam. This time, it's not the answer. The child is four. Identifying thoughts, cognitive distortions, etc. takes a facility with insight and language not likely to be present here. Moving on…

B. Family therapy. Could work. We don't have details about how sever the ASD symptoms the child is displaying are. If they're at all severe, family therapy is not going to be effective. Or, at least, not the MOST effective.

C. Applied behavioral analysis. If you've worked with ASD kids, you've probably heard of this. If not, this may be a mystery treatment. If you're in the latter group, it's worth flagging this as a possibility. The ASWB doesn't do trick questions or trick answers. So, anything offered isn't going to be a made-up therapy. Behavioral treatment? Sounds good. Applied analysis? Could work. One more to go.

D. Play therapy. Okay, makes more sense than CBT or family therapy. It's child-centered, not overly verbal. Seems like a decent answer.

So, we're left with two possibilities to choose from. It's applied behavioral analysis vs. play therapy. Both seem like plausible best answers.

How do you choose?

Think of what you know about ASD symptoms. What you've encountered or heard how people diagnosed with ASD present. For milder cases, sure, play therapy seems like a good idea. But what about severe symptoms? Limited communication... Play therapy doesn't seem like the best fit.

That leaves, for those who've never heard of it, something called applied behavioral analysis. (Those who have heard of it know that it's a first-choice  treatment with ASD.) Close your eyes, wince, and hit the button. It's your best guess.

And it's right. Read up about the treatment here and here.

And now, if you encounter applied behavioral analysis on the exam, you'll be ready. That's the magic of test prep. 

There's lots more test prepping to do here on SWTP. Sign up to create and account and get started.

Happy studying and good luck with the exam!

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