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What is ABA?

child receiving ABA therapy

Every parent wants the best for their children. But some children need a little more help in reaching their potential. As a parent of a child with ASD (autism spectrum disorder), finding the best resources and programs to help your child reach their potential and gain independence can be challenging. One technique shown to have great success in children with ASD is ABA Therapy. But what is ABA therapy? How does it work? And is it right for you and your family?

What Is ABA Therapy?

ABA stands for Applied Behavior Analysis, and it works to increase independence. This one-on-one therapy technique uses the science of behavior to improve daily living skills. These include social skills, self-care, classroom performance and learning abilities, play skills, motor skills, and communication.

To understand the work done by ABA, we can look at its name. The “Applied” portion references the real-world application of its methods. Rather than only focusing on future possibilities, ABA zeroes in on life's immediate and functional demands. Because of its focus on practical application, ABA has excellent success in helping children who may struggle with abstract thoughts or concepts.

“Behavior” gives a real insight into the science used in the teaching. When people think of behavior, they usually are thinking about the negative. Tantrums might be a behavior or throwing a toy. But behaviors can also be good or neutral. Cleaning up toys, brushing teeth, or even smiling are also behaviors. ABA Therapy focuses on the behaviors necessary for functional and social tasks. ABA works to maintain and increase positive behaviors a child already has, learn new behaviors and skills that a child may need, and decrease disruptive or dangerous behaviors.

“Analysis” helps us see the individualized nature of ABA therapy. Rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach, ABA is highly personalized. As ABA treatment begins, a therapist will analyze a child’s existing behaviors and skills and note how those bring them closer to or hold them back from independence. The therapist will create a plan specific to your child to help them have the skills they need for daily life.

How Does ABA Work?

There are many different strategies for use in ABA. Some of these include DTT (Discrete Trial Training), PRT (Pivotal Response Treatment), EDSM (Early Denver Start Model), and PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System).

These acronyms represent different techniques that therapists use during ABA treatment. The variety of treatment methods allows a therapist to choose the one best suited for your child, whether that means focusing more on communication skills, direction-following, or social engagement.

All of these methods have some core principles in common. One of the most common is the ABC Model, which stands for antecedents, behavior, and consequences. Antecedents refers to things that happen first. So, essentially, this model means that an action or event leads to a reaction, resulting in some type of effect.

Really, we all learn in this way! Maybe a nervous child is told if they are brave (antecedent) and they sit still at the dentist (behavior), they will get a sticker (consequence). Or maybe you tell your child to try a new food (antecedent), and when they take a bite (behavior), they will get to eat dessert (consequence). ABA taps into this natural progression to understand why a child acts the way they do and to develop new skills along the way.

Who Provides ABA Therapy?

ABA is a team effort! When addressing behaviors, consistency is key. So, ABA is not only taught for a few minutes a week. Instead, the whole family can work together to implement the techniques they learn during ABA therapy.

A Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) spearheads the process. After performing an initial evaluation and making a treatment plan, they may receive help implementing the techniques they learn. A Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) can help train parents and family members, provide one-on-one care, and follow up on how everything is going.

Along the way, parents, teachers, siblings, and others can help use the strategies learned during ABA to ensure consistent behavior training!

Is ABA Right for My Family?

Studies show ABA can significantly improve the level of independence in children with ASD. By working on the specific behaviors of life, ABA can improve:

  • Social Skills

  • Direction-Following

  • Communication Skills

  • Gross Motor Skills

  • Fine Motor Skills

  • Play Skills

  • Self-Care Skills

  • Daily Living Activities

  • Leisure Skills

If you are interested in seeing how ABA can help your family, call us today to schedule a consultation!

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