Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA therapy is something that parents often hear for the first time when they begin the diagnosis process for autism. There are many misunderstandings and questions surrounding ABA, particularly for parents who have just received a diagnosis and are searching for the best possible therapy for their child. We’re here to help you understand the basics components, philosophy and most importantly, the benefits, of ABA therapy.
What is ABA?
ABA therapy applies our understanding of how behavior works in real-life situations. The goal is to increase behaviors that are helpful and decrease behaviors that are harmful or affect learning.
In simplest terms, ABA uses proven techniques to work with your child on changing or modifying behaviors that are important to you. These techniques are used in a way that is logical and objective, so we can be sure we are doing a good job.
One of the things that sets ABA therapy apart from many of the other therapy options out there is that it’s scientifically driven. Therapists use data collection to evaluate and then create a customized treatment plan for your child that includes measurable goals. Data is then collected during every session to measure progress. Treatment plans are regulated updated, based on this data collection.
ABA therapy programs can help with a wide variety of things, including:
- Language and communication skills
- Attention, focus, social skills, memory, and academics
- Decreasing problem behaviors
How does ABA therapy work?
Applied Behavior Analysis involves many techniques for understanding and changing behavior. ABA is a flexible treatment that can:
- Be adapted to meet the needs of each unique person
- Provided in many different locations – at home, in a clinic setting, and in the community
- Teaches skills that are useful in everyday life
- Can involve one-to-one teaching or group instruction
The ABA philosophy
Positive reinforcement is one of the main strategies used in ABA.
When a behavior is followed by something that is valued (a reward), a person is more likely to repeat that behavior. Over time, this encourages positive behavior change.
First, the therapist identifies a goal behavior. Each time the person uses the behavior or skill successfully, they get a reward. The reward is meaningful to the individual – examples include praise, a toy or book, watching a video, access to playground or other location, and more.
Positive rewards encourage the person to continue using the skill. Over time this leads to meaningful behavior change.
While this is the therapy that’s considered the “gold standard” for children with autism, it’s proven to be effective with children with ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder or other behavioral challenges.
And, when you consider that the basic principle of ABA is rewarding good behaviors to extinguish bad behaviors, it’s a concept that can be applied to any child, neurotypical or not.