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WHAT IS ABA (APPLIED BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS)?

ABA is a therapy with the goal of understanding and modifying behavior in addition to shaping skills to be used in every day life. Some of these skills include social, academic, communication, verbal, motor, and functional skills. ABA therapy is:

  • adapted to meet each person’s unique needs;
  • provided in a variety of settings, such as clinic, home, in the community (e.g., park, grocery store), school, or other agency (e.g., day program) and;
  • provided in a variety of instructional formats, ranging from one-to-one to small/large group, depending on need.

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 the methods ABA therapists use to minimize aberrant behaviors is NOT to punish, but to instead withhold praise or rewards when a negative behavior is displayed. Similarly, when the child engages in a desired behavior, it is rewarded to increase the likelihood of reoccurrence.

WHAT IS POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT?

One of the most important concepts in Applied Behavior Analysis is positive reinforcement. This is the process by which a behavior can be strengthened by following its occurrence with some positive outcome: for example, praising a correct answer.

This process starts during assessment, when strengths and needs are identified at a very comprehensive and precise level–we need to pinpoint exactly all of the behaviors to treat, and this generally includes hundreds from a variety of skill domains. Programming is then organized around these objectives, with many teaching opportunities engineered around each throughout every day–all of which are designed to result in success and positive consequences!

WHO PROVIDES ABA SERVICES?

A qualified and trained Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) provides ABA services at in San Jose. Certified BCBAs design and directly oversee unique behavior programs to work on the development of each client. The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) is the professional body responsible for certifying behavior analysts. In order to be eligible for the certification examination, individuals must have earned at least a master’s degree in behavior analysis or a related field approved by the BACB, such as education, psychology, or social work. Those seeking certification are required to complete specific graduate-level coursework in behavior analysis, as well as several hours of supervised experience. Parents or guardians should make sure they find someone who is accredited and trustworthy.

WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF ABA THERAPY?

The goal of ABA therapy when working with individuals on the spectrum is to eliminate certain behaviors that are not socially acceptable and replace them with more positive alternatives. An example could be when addressing the issue of frequent tantrums. The goal in this case would be to stop that behavior and replace it a verbal “I am unhappy” to voice the child’s troubles rather than having an emotional outburst. Another alternative could be requesting to take a break in a quieter space to calm down.

ABA therapy also focuses on basic functional skills, like learning to share, brushing teeth, or getting a hair cut. When a client demonstrates a positive skill or behavior, the action is immediately rewarded with a positive reinforcer.

The overall goal for people with autism is to learn life skills and functions that will help them reach their full potential and, in many cases, live independently in society as they grow into adulthood. ABA therapy will help to teach behaviors that are more easily understood by all people and will increase the likelihood of a positive school and work experience.

HOW DO I FIND ABA SERVICES?

The first step to finding services is to receive an official diagnosis from a pediatrician or diagnostician with expertise in autism. Once this happens, you can begin to search for ABA providers in your area.

If you’re typing into Google “ABA therapy near me,” know that not all ABA providers are built the same. It’s important to get to know the organization you are interested in and make sure that they are a fit with you and your family. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to find a service best for you!

In addition to Google, asking your pediatrician, diagnostician, or other autism parent may be a good resource. People in your network can be excellent references for the perfect fit. 

ABA IS EVIDENCE BASED AND EFFECTIVE

Many parents wonder if there is evidence that ABA therapy works. There are decades of research, data, and studies that show the quantifiable benefits of ABA therapy for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD):

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 ABA therapy
  • 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.

Additionally, ABA has been endorsed by the U.S. Surgeon General and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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.

This form of therapy is most effective when applied of at least 20 hours per week before children reach the age of four, but has also been increasingly successful when working with older kids and adults as well.

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.

CONTACT US TODAY

Our team here at Kadiant is here to support you every step of the way. Contact our team in San Jose to learn more about ABA services and whether our people-centered team of expert clinicians would be the right fit for you and your family.

For people with developmental disabilities, including autism, Applied Behavior Analysis is the intervention of choice. By learning how these programs work, who they can help, and where to find them, families who support people with special needs can find the help they need when they need it.