Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is an established, well-respected approach to understanding behavior, motivating learning and teaching new skills. ABA therapists seek to understand ways in which behavior is affected by the child’s environment – their physical and social surroundings as a whole.
ABA programs can target many different skill areas depending on the needs of the child. For instance, ABA treatment can be used to improve social skills, communication, motor skills, academic abilities, play skills, and self-care. ABA programs are also useful for reducing negative behaviors such as self-harming or hitting others.
What does it involve?
ABA programs may be administered by board-certified behavior analysts or child psychologists with training in ABA. Many therapy providers claim to offer ABA treatment, but do not have the requisite training. Always ask for the credentials and work experience of any therapist.
Traditionally, it is recommended that the child spend 20 to 40 hours per week in ABA therapy. However, some behavior analysts can provide modified ABA for 10 to 15 hours per week, allowing time for other types of therapy.
The behavior analyst will begin by completing a detailed assessment of the child’s skills and learning preferences. They will also consult the family to help set goals. Goals are based on helping the child learn new skills that will help them gain independence both in the short and long terms. No two ABA programs are identical. The behavior analyst will tailor the program to meet the child’s needs.
As therapy progresses, the behavior analyst will regularly meet with the family to discuss the child’s progress as measured by objective criteria. Together with the family, the behavior analyst will plan ahead for future sessions and goals. The behavior analyst will also provide training for the family in order to support the child’s learning at home and in other settings.
ABA includes a wide variety of techniques. All ABA methods involve structured activities and breaking skills down into simple steps. Some techniques are led by the behavior analyst, while some are led by the child. The child will receive positive reinforcement for correct answers and responses that promote learning, and no reinforcement for incorrect answers and behaviors that distract from learning.
Discrete trial training (DTT), also known as discrete trial teaching, is one ABA instructional method. DTT breaks down skills into discrete components and teaches them one by one. As DTT progresses, discrete skills are linked together into more complex skills.
The goal of applied behavioral analysis is to increase the skill sets of autistic children and allow them to function more independently in daily life.
Applied behavior analysis has been the subject of many clinical studies over the past 40 years. It has been proven an effective approach in teaching new skills to children with ASD.
Depending on where you live, it may be difficult to find a therapist with formal ABA training.
If you pay privately for therapy, it can become expensive.
Depending on where you live, it may be difficult to travel to therapy appointments.