Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is usually considered as one of the best treatments for autism. ABA uses a system for treating autism based on behaviorist theories. Simply put, ABA believes that desired behavior can be taught by providing rewards and consequences.
You can think of ABA as a way of applying behavioral principles to achieve behavioral goals by measuring the outcomes. Ideally, utilizing rewards and consequences to teach or change behavior has been used for years, though using rewards and consequences to get specific and measurable goals is quite new. This post discusses the important things to know about ABA therapy for autism.
Background of ABA therapy
ABA therapy was first introduced in 1987 by Dr. Ivar Lovaas who was a behavioral psychologist. He thought that social and behavioral skills can be taught, especially to autistic children by using ABA therapy.
As many experts believe, autism is considered as a set of behavioral symptoms that can be changed or modified. When you no longer see autistic behaviors in a person, it’s assumed that autism has been treated effectively.
So when Dr. Ivar Lovaas first started using ABA therapy, he was willing to employ punishments for non-compliance and some of them were a bit harsh. In most situations, this method has been modified, though it can be used in some settings.
Instead of employing punishment, withholding of rewards is used. For example, if your child fails to respond to command properly, then they may not get a reward like their favorite food.
Regardless of the different opinions about Dr. Ivar Lovaas’ method, many people believe that his concept is quite correct. Many autistic children who receive ABA therapy learn the right behavior at least some of the time and some even lose their autism signs and symptoms after a couple of years of intensive therapy.
Over the years, many therapists have studied and modified Dr. Ivar Lovaas’s techniques to bring various versions of behaviorism. Some of the techniques include language-based ABA and pivotal response, both of which have become popular techniques for treating autism.
Remember that all these training techniques have their ideas about the development and behavioral field, meaning they focus on behavior, social, and emotional engagement.
What your child can learn through ABA therapy
In most cases, ABA therapy is designed to get rid of undesirable behavior and teach your child the desired behavior and skills. For instance, experts can use ABA therapy to treat autism with applied behavior analysis. so it can teach your child to sit quietly, reduce outbursts and tantrums, wait for their turn while playing, or use the right words to make requests.
Even better, ABA therapy is also suitable for teaching your child simple and complex skills. ABA therapy can be utilized to reward your child for brushing their teeth properly, or even for sharing something with a friend.
Classic ABA therapy is usually ideal in a natural setting, but it’s not intended to improve emotional skills. For example, ABA therapy can teach your child how to greet someone with a handshake or shake hands, but it may not help your kid to have an emotional feeling with another person.
As you can see, it can take an experienced and well-qualified therapist to utilize ABA therapy to teach symbolic or imaginative thinking, academic content, or empathy. Because of this, most of the skills are usually taught using other methods
How ABA therapy works
The most basic ABA therapy begins with discrete trial therapy. In this therapy, you can expect to have a therapist who can ask your child for a particular behavior, such as asking them to pick up a ball.
So if your child complies, they are given a reward, such as a high five, food treat, or any other reward that your child finds appealing. However, if your child doesn’t comply, then they don’t get any reward, and the command is repeated.
A discrete trial therapy can have specific content that is based on an evaluation of your child, their needs, and their abilities. Therefore, if your child can solve shapes, it means the therapist may not ask them to sort shapes for rewards for a long time. Instead, the therapist can attempt to focus on different and more challenging behavior and social tasks.
That said, for the young children, especially those who are under the age of 3 years old, the therapist can provide a modified form of ABA therapy that is much more like a play therapy rather than discrete trials.
So as they get used to the new behaviors, some therapists can begin to take your child into real-world settings. In this way, your child will generalize the behaviors that they learn and integrate them into their normal social experiences.
ABA therapy can also come in various forms to make it suitable for older children, such as teens or even older people. Discrete trial therapies are still being utilized in many settings and for some kids. But you can also find some other forms of ABA therapies that are becoming popular.
Besides, many therapists are opting to administer ABA therapy in a natural setting like cafeterias, community locations, playgrounds rather than having one-to-one therapy. This method can make it easier for your child to use in real-world situations the skills they learn.
Because ABA therapy is now everywhere and it can help your child with autism, it makes sense to try it. Your child can use expected behaviors and manage some of their challenging behaviors. These are important behavioral skills that can play a huge role in how your child manages social and school experiences.
Unfortunately, it’s not every ABA therapist who can be suitable for the job and every child responds differently to behavioral therapy. Hence, make sure that you find a well-trained and certified therapist to work with your child.
It’s also important for the therapist to know where and how they will be working with your little one. Make sure that you take note of your child’s response to the therapist and the therapy so that you can detect if you’re moving in the right direction. With some measurable goals in place, ABA therapy is worth a trial.