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WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT ABA
(APPLIED BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS)

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy is based on the principles of behavior analysis, a field of psychology dedicated to improving the lives of children and adults with behavioral problems. It is best known for its effectiveness at treating children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), but some experts also recommend ABA for children and adults with oppositional defiant disorder (OSD), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and even behavioral symptoms associated with age-related cognitive decline.

For those looking for “ABA therapy near me,” our company offers patients access to professional teams trained in ABA therapy. Contact our office in Sacramento, California, today to discover how we can take care of your needs.

HOW DOES ABA THERAPY WORK?

ABA therapy works by replacing maladaptive behaviors with more appropriate ones. Unlike its predecessor, behavior modification therapy, which focused exclusively on the eradication of targeted negative behaviors, ABA therapy begins with an in-depth analysis of the function these behaviors serve in the patient’s life.

When a child with ASD starts visiting an ABA therapist, the initial focus is on identifying target behaviors and coming up with a treatment plan to address them. This plan may involve a combination of interventions.

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ABA TECHNIQUES AND PHILOSOPHY

The general philosophy behind applied behavior analysis is that all children, both neurotypical and those with autism, develop behaviors based on what is known as operant conditioning. Saul McLeod defines operant conditioning, initially pioneered by behavioral psychologist B. F. Skinner, as “a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishment for behavior.” (2) Parents should note, however, that modern ABA therapists don’t use traditional punishments. Instead, they reward desirable behaviors and decreaseaberrant behaviors by withholding rewards.

Therapists have several interventions available to encourage patients to replace maladaptive behaviors with more effective ones. They often use a technique called task analysis to teach patients how to break down difficult to accomplish tasks into a series of adaptive behavioral responses. This can be combined with carefully chosen prompts, which are used as cues to encourage desirable responses, and interventions based on reinforcement, shaping, and chaining.

IS THERE EVIDENCE THAT ABA THERAPY WORKS?

Many parents wonder if there is evidence that ABA therapy works. Skinner, the initial pioneer of behavioral therapy, was one of the first psychologists to take a truly scientific approach to understanding human behavior. It should come as no surprise that the modern interventions that have stemmed from his initial research are based on empirically verifiable procedures and results.

Parents looking for proof that ABA works can read up on the following studies:

  • A paper published in Pediatrics in 2007 titled “Management of children with autism spectrum disorders” showed that children with ASD who receive this form of treatment measure higher than their peers on scales of adaptive behavior, social behavior, language, academic performance, and IQ.
  • Researchers from the MIND institute published a clinical report titled “Evidence-based comprehensive treatments for early autism” in the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology in 2008 that indicated that young children with ASD showed improvements in intellectual performance after undergoing one type of ABA therapy known as the Lovaas technique.
  • A 2009 literature review published in 2009 in the journal Research in Developmental Disabilities concluded that ABA can enhance global functioning in preschool-aged children with autism.
  • A meta-analysis published in the Journal of Autism Development Disorder in the same year showed that early intensive behavioral interventions based on ABA increased IQ, language and adaptive behavior.

These are just a few examples out of many. The bottom line is that applied behavior analysis is not only a proven method for positively improving behavior, but that it has also been proven effective as a treatment for young children with ASD.

Given that this form of therapy is most effective when applied intensively, meaning at a rate of at least 20 hours per week, before children reach the age of four, that’s good news for parents and their children alike.

WHO PROVIDES ABA SERVICES?

Only qualified Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) and Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) can be certified to perform ABA therapy. BCBAs can have either master’s degrees or PhDs in psychology and behavior analysis. RBTs are trained specifically in how to conduct ABA therapy sessions.

 

Some states offer licensing programs for BCBAs and RBTs. All practitioners, even if they do not need a license in the state, must pass a national certification exam.

 

WHERE CAN I FIND ABA SERVICES FOR MY CHILD WITH AUTISM?

Now that they know how effective it is, parents of children with autism may be asking themselves, “where can I find ABA therapy near me?” They’re in luck, because the process is simple. Board Certified Behavior Analysts and their teams work with patients in almost every major city in the country, including Sacramento.

 

Start out by asking the child’s pediatrician, general psychiatrist, or another healthcare provider about local ABA therapists. It is common for physicians who treat many patients with autism to be familiar with at least a few practitioners close to their patients’ homes. Parents may also want to ask their children’s teachers or daycare providers for recommendations.

Once parents have found a local therapist who specializes in ASD and ABA therapy, it’s time for them to do their due diligence. Check out the office’s website, read some reviews and ask for referrals from previous patients. Speaking with the parents of a child who has successfully completed treatment is the best way to get an accurate view of what to expect.

WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD I ASK?

Before making a final decision on who to trust with administering ABA, call to interview potential providers. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • How long have you been practicing ABA?
  • What specialized training do you have?
  • How much experience do you have working with children with autism?
  • What kind of techniques do you use?
  • What will the sessions look like?
  • Will I be allowed to attend?
  • How long will my child need to attend regular sessions?
  • What kind of results can I expect when he or she is finished?
  • How much will the treatment cost?
  • Do you take my family’s insurance?
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Look for a practitioner who will encourage parents and other family members or important adults in the patient’s life to participate actively in treatment by attending therapy sessions and following through on recommendations at home.

While it may be more cost-effective for parents to find a provider who takes their families’ insurance, that shouldn’t be the most important factor influencing their decision to work with a particular therapist. When performed correctly, ABA provides impressive results, so it’s worth the money.

FIND THE RIGHT HELP FOR YOUR CHILD

Parents interested in getting their children started with an ABA therapist have a few options. They can search Google for “ABA therapy near me,” but don’t just choose the first practitioner it pulls up. Instead, ask for recommendations, check the therapist’s certification, ask about relevant experience, and schedule a preliminary consultation to see how the child responds.

Location is important because the patient will need to attend sessions multiple times each week, but there should still be a few local ABA therapists to choose from. Some may even offer other forms of complementary therapy to help children on the autism spectrum learn how to manage their emotions and improve their academic performance in addition to addressing their behavioral needs.

If they do their homework, parents should find that ongoing therapy will provide their children with the tools they need to succeed in school and beyond.

Contact our office in Sacramento to see how we can help serve your needs. We’re located at 1400 Ethan Way, Suite 175.