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COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO ABA THERAPY (APPLIED BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS)
The American Psychological Association and the U.S. Surgeon General consider ABA an evidence-based best practice therapy. It has passed scientific tests that verify its usefulness, effectiveness, and quality.
ABA therapy, or Applied Behavior Analysis, is an autism treatment based on the theory that more appropriate behaviors can be taught using a system of rewards and consequences. Often called the “gold standard” in autism treatment, ABA can also help aging adults adjust to changes like losses associated with memory, relationships and strength.
Applied behavior analysis is one of several therapies that teach appropriate behavior. Therapists use a gentle approach that rewards helpful behaviors and minimizes those that are harmful or could affect learning.
During therapy, an ABA therapist determines each patient’s needs and then devises a program that focuses on behaviors that need to be taught or reduced. As sessions progress, providers direct some procedures while learners direct others. Students get many chances to practice skills daily. Learners can apply new skills in planned and natural settings.
In a recent Forbes article, Ronit Molko Ph.D., BCBA-D writes, “There has been much debate around whether services delivered in a center are better than services delivered in the home and vice versa. Some research suggests that an ideal program may be a hybrid mix of both home-based and center-based services.”
Virtually every community in the U.S. has local ABA therapists who not only work with learners but train caregivers, parents and family members to provide support to pupils in various environments.
HOW DOES APPLIED BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS WORK?
ABA is a flexible treatment option that changes behaviors by encouraging appropriate responses and reducing maladaptive behaviors. It can be offered as an in-home option or provided in schools and communities. There are ABA specialists located near every major city.
Kids with autism learn skills they can use in their everyday lives. Professionals might use one-on-one or group sessions. Positive reinforcement is the core teaching tool. The Autism Speaks organization explains, “When a behavior is followed by something that is valued, a person is more likely to repeat that behavior.”
Therapists identify goal behaviors and offer learners meaningful rewards when they succeed. For example, a child with autism might get a toy, book, or video.
Therapists use a three-step process called the “A-B-C’s” to understand and teach behavior.
- The antecedent. Anything that occurs just before the target behavior. It might be verbal, such as a command, request, or something in the environment like sound or light.
- Resulting behavior. The learner’s responses to the antecedent.
- The consequence. The direct effect of behaviors. For example, therapists therapists provide attention or preferred activities.
Professionals evaluate each antecedent, behavior and consequence to learn why behaviors happen and to evaluate how consequences affect the chances of behaviors repeating.
WHAT IS THE EVIDENCE THAT ABA THERAPY IS EFFECTIVE
The American Psychological Association and the U.S. Surgeon General consider ABA an evidence-based best-practice intervention. It has passed scientific tests that verify its usefulness, effectiveness and quality. As a result, the use of behavior therapy has grown quickly, and it is easy for anyone to find a therapist close to their home.
Professionals representing online resource Very Well Health also advise that, “The outcomes of ABA have been intensively studied over the decades.”
ABA has evolved from “behaviorism” treatments originally developed by B.F. Skinner in the mid-1900s. Therapies today are more far-reaching and gentler than earlier versions. It is easy for ABA therapists to measure success because all treatments begin with concrete goals, and providers gauge results throughout treatment.
HOW CAN I FIND ABA SERVICES FOR MY CHILD WITH AUTISM
It is easy to locate local experts who can provide ABA therapy. You might begin with an online search like “ABA therapists near me.” You can check the BACB Registry, which lists practitioners. The site makes it easy to narrow results by location. Your child’s school is likely to have a list of contacts.
Many state and local early intervention children’s programs include ABA consultants and therapists. Behavior management professionals are typically associated with hospitals, universities and autism clinics. You could also try an “ABA therapy programs near me” search among nearby colleges offering graduate programs in social work and special education.
When comparing ABA therapy programs, it is best to focus on those that include board certified therapists who have passed national exams. Depending on location, many have also passed state tests. Programs often incorporate teams that include technicians, but certified therapists supervise them. For instance, Registered Behavior Technicians often work with adults and kids and help them practice skills.
WHAT IS ABA THERAPY FOR AUTISM
ABA therapy for autism is based on the same behavior management principles used to modify a broad range of conduct. Therapists adapt methods so they can help children refine communication and language skills. They help students improve focus, social skills, and academics while diminishing problem behavior.
Professionals use ABA to help kids with autism:
- Learn to ask for things they want
- Communicate more effectively
- Improve focus at school
- Reduce or stop self-harming behavior
- Have fewer outbursts
Therapists have been using ABA to help children with autism since the 1960s. Learners gain new life skills that can range from mastering languages to developing healthier lifestyles. This type of therapy is ideal for children because it can help them become more independent and successful. It is encouraging for parents and caregivers because they see short-term and long-term improvements.
ABA PROGRAMS HAVE POSITIVE RESULTS
A Wikipedia entry discussing applied behavior analysis states, “The American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that the benefit of ABA-based interventions in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) has been well documented.”
When professionals practice ABA, they carefully observe clients, keep records and analyze their findings. These steps allow them to understand even the most challenging and confusing behaviors. Once practitioners have a clear understanding of their clients, they can modify plans based on their needs. Therapists evaluate desirable and undesirable actions and use interventions to reduce maladaptive behavior.
Board certified therapists who provide ABA are highly skilled professionals. Some have advanced degrees in behavior management and autism. Many are specialists in areas like education, psychology, and social work. Providers take classes and learn in real-life situations that teach them to observe, manage, and analyze challenging behaviors.
HOW LONG DOES ABA THERAPY LAST?
Long-term ABA therapy programs typically involve 25 to 40 hours of therapy per week. Depending on a person’s diagnosis, ABA therapy can last from 1-3 years. Studies show that children participating in long-term, intensive programs get the best results. Extended therapy can provide marked improvements in socialization, language abilities, and life skills.