The first several years in the life of a child are the most important. It is when children learn how to talk, read, write, form friendships, develop bonds with their or family and begin to form a perception of the world around them. This is a period in their lives when they are most impressionable. However, certain children are unfortunate enough to be born with developmental disabilities that hamper their overall development. One of them is autism. It is mainly characterized by difficulties in socializing, communication, learning, and certain repetitive behaviors. Signs of autism usually surface in the first three years of a child’s life, with some cases being diagnosed in later years. Developmental disabilities such as autism affect hundreds of millions of children all across the globe each year.
Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is one of the only treatments for this population recommended by the medical community. However, there are too few caregivers trained in ABA, which leaves a massive burden on the families of children suffering from developmental disabilities, given the severe shortage of experts to treat it.
A company named Rethink Autism Inc. has come up with an ingenious way to extend help to the millions suffering from a developmental disability by providing a simple way to train their family caregivers as well as teachers and others in ways to deliver best practice behavioral intervention. In light of the fact that there are only about 30,000 certified Behaviour therapists worldwide, the need for a way to scalably treat and support children with special needs was urgently needed. Moreover, public and mainstream education and healthcare systems are grossly inadequate to address the growing need of specially-abled children.
The American Centres for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 1 in 6 children will be diagnosed with some developmental disability or the other, making it statistically more prevalent than pediatric cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined. One might be forgiven to think that this is an epidemic, with hundreds of millions of children with developmental disabilities posing a significant challenge for the economy as a whole.
The unique system developed by Rethink Autism entails involving all people who are in the lives of individuals with a developmental disability, i.e. parents, siblings, teachers, social workers, etc. by leveraging technology. Rethink noted extensive research on the effectiveness of video modeling for training in fields such as medicine and the military and decided to combine this proven method of instruction with the proven and medically-recommended ABA treatment methodology, creating an online training and support system for individuals with a developmental disability and their caregivers worldwide.
Motivation for Rethink
Recognizing that there was a significant dearth of trained professionals (only 30,000 Board Certified Behavioral Therapists globally) to cater to the needs of a growing population of dependents, Rethink set out to create a scalable solution that would make clinical best practice treatment tools and support available to the individual and their caregivers no matter where they are located. Providing research-based teaching strategies grounded in the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), the award-winning Rethink program includes a comprehensive online individualized treatment program with over 1,500 video-based demonstrations - developed by internationally-recognized experts in the field - to train caregivers, parents, professional and paraprofessional staff how to manage problem behaviors as well as teach an individual with a developmental disability critical skills. Automated data-based reports track progress in real time, facilitate coordination across care team members, and allow for robust data analytics on outcomes. Rethink’s practice management offering allows for the tracking of service authorizations and cost of treatment as it relates to clinical outcomes. The company serves individuals at all levels of development and ages ranging from point of diagnosis through early adulthood.
Rethink has a clientele that includes employers with under 1000 employees to over 500,000 employees, and across its book of business, Rethink covers over 7 million lives. Research clearly demonstrates the impact of caring for a dependent with a developmental disability – from over twice the rates of anxiety and depression to thousands of dollars annually in lost productivity. Indeed, over half of caregivers work fewer hours or leave the workforce to accommodate the needs of their child. The Rethink program helps support these employees. The program is also used by hundreds of public school districts in all 50 states, ranging from large urban systems like New York City, San Francisco, Dallas, Denver and others, down to small rural districts. It allows districts to fully meet Federal IDEA requirements as well as a variety of state-based legislative mandates to provide an adequate education to students with a special need. The program also helps districts train staff and accurately measure the progress of a student population not subject to mainstream standardized testing.
Meet the visionary behind Rethink Autism, Daniel Etra, Co-founder and CEO
Mr. Etra currently serves as Co-founder & Chief Executive Officer of Rethink. With over two decades of successful international business experience, including 15 years as a serial entrepreneur, Mr. Etra was Co-founder & CEO of R.E.R. International, a global supplier of printed materials to the retail industry. He was a Consultant at Bain & Company, helping establish their NY office and also served as a Managing Director of Promodex Ltd., an importer, and distributor of consumer appliances and industrial equipment in the Middle East. In addition, Mr. Etra served in the Israel Defense Forces and worked at Wasserstein, Perella & Co., specializing in M&A in the fields of healthcare, technology, and natural resources.
Mr. Etra has won numerous awards including the Inc. 500, the Deloitte Technology Fast 500, the SmartCEO Future 50, and CEO of the Year from Industry Era and Corporate Vision Magazines. He is also a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO). Mr. Etra has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA in Economics from Yale University. Born and raised in New York City, he is active in a variety of children’s causes and volunteers with organizations such as NY Cares and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.