What is Applied Behavior Analysis (“ABA”)?
Finding the best treatment plan for one who has autism or ASD is the first step to improvement.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a scientifically backed, well-received treatment for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Autism Speaks defines it as a ‘best practice” treatment method, as defined by the US Surgeon General.
“ABA is considered an evidence-based ‘best’ practice treatment by the US Surgeon General and by the American Psychological Association. “Evidence-based means that ABA has passed scientific tests of its usefulness, quality, and effectiveness.”
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) describes ABA as a group of subset treatment methods. Some of those types include:
- Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) – this method is typically used for ASD diagnosed children under five years old.
- Pivotal Response Training (PR) – Targets the child’s desire and motivation for learning. It also works on the child’s ability to self-monitor behavior and to communicate more effectively with people.
- Discrete Trial Training (DTT) – Uses positive reinforcement to teach desired behaviors and responses. Tasks are broken into steps, which are worked on before moving to the next step in the series. This method only recognizes correct responses and ignores incorrect answers.
- Verbal Behavior Intervention (VBI) – Focuses solely on improving the child’s verbal skills.
ABA Therapy In a Nutshell
The basic premise of ABA therapy is to focus on positive results, without focusing on why negative responses or results occur. Rewarding appropriate responses encourages additional appropriate responses. While the child might be choosing the right answer or response to earn a reward, the repeated correct choice reinforces what is expected. At some point, the right response will be automatically chosen, even after the reward system is removed.
A primary goal with ABA treatment is to improve communication skills, including, listening, looking, eye contact and imitating appropriate behaviors and actions. In addition, more complex skill sets desired with ABA treatment include: reading, being able to understand the perspectives of others and the ability to have conversations with people.
Is ABA Therapy Appropriate for All Age Ranges?
This method of treatment is useful for all ages. From young toddlers to adults, the techniques work to improve function for:
- Social relationships
- Personal care
- Family relationships
- Social interaction
In addition, research has discovered that regardless of age, those who receive ABA treatment increase their level of involvement in both family and community activities.
Combining Styles of ABA Therapy
According to the Autism Speaks organization, there is evidence, especially among toddlers and young children with autism or ASD that combining several ABA sub-category treatments can benefit the whole child. The early intervention, used for children younger than 4, who participate for 1 to 3 years for 25 to 40 hours each week shows significant success.
“Such studies have demonstrated that many children with autism experience significant improvements in learning, reasoning, communication and adaptability when they participate in high-quality ABA programs. Some preschoolers who participate in early intensive ABA for two or more years acquire sufficient skills to participate in regular classrooms with little or no additional support. Other children learn many important skills, but still need additional educational support to succeed in a classroom.”
Teenagers and adults also benefit from learning daily life skills, which helps them become more independent as they mature.
How ABA Therapy Performed for Children?
A trained professional will meet with the learner and family to develop a treatment plan. This will include goals and the learner’s current level of skills. Each goal is then further broken down to simple steps that will be targeted during treatment.
All skill areas are addressed and a plan of action for each one is decided.
The professional will meet with family members and the learner periodically to review progress and adjust as needed.
There is not a one-size-fits-all treatment for autism/ASD diagnosis. Each person is an individual with a unique set of skill levels and needs, however, ABA has been shown to be a useful and successful method for many years.