Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, commonly known as ABA therapy, is considered the gold standard in treatment for the symptoms of autism. ABA is a science based on learning, and it can change your family’s life for the better. ABA therapy is effective and has become the most recommended method for modifying behavior by focusing on understanding the function of a behavior.
A Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) analyzes your child’s behavior to find an appropriate replacement that keeps the child safe but does not limit expression. Its primary purpose is to create more positive developmental outcomes for a child with autism so they can have as much independence in life as possible.
It is sometimes difficult for people diagnosed with autism to express themselves appropriately or in a way that is easily understood. An individual with autism does not always possess the ability to self-regulate their emotions and communicate properly.
By understanding the function of their behaviors and studying them, professionals recognize patterns and mediate the obstacles your child may be experiencing. The goal of ABA is to help autistic individuals gain the skills they need to cope with real-world situations and communicate effectively.
Through ABA therapy, clients can learn to:
- Thrive in school, church, home, community, and professional settings
- Advocate appropriately for their needs
- Communicate in a way that is meaningful and appropriate
- Connect with others
- Lessen maladaptive behaviors, especially those that are self-injurious or aggressive
Why Is ABA Therapy Essential?
Many forget that behaviors like tantrums are a form of communication for autistic children. While it may not be productive and can even cause feelings of shame in some parents, tantrums are a method of expression. What ABA therapy does is empower the child in new ways. The idea is to give the child options to express their distress in healthier, more appropriate ways.
When you opt for ABA therapy, you will be assigned a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) to examine areas of concern. For example, in the past, when grocery shopping, you may have had to cut your trips short because of your child’s inappropriate behaviors.
Through ABA sessions, therapists will help you understand what the behavior is expressing while ensuring the child’s needs are met. It is through data and observation that we can shape undesirable behaviors. In this process, ABA will also teach parents to praise positive behaviors they would like to see displayed more often.
Before starting a session, it is a great idea to meet with your BCBA and RBT and have them observe your family and the child in your home, a natural environment. This can help determine the best treatment approach for the family and client. If ABA isn’t your best treatment option, a BCBA can suggest other techniques to help you achieve your goals.
How Exactly Does ABA Therapy Work?
Therapy begins with the BCBA determining why certain unproductive behaviors are occurring and what function they may be serving. Undesirable behavior can often result from stimuli a person with autism has not learned to cope with, such as confusion regarding a big emotion. Or being unable to access something they feel soothed by.
The individuals may not know how to label and express their feelings appropriately. Behavior is often a result. It’s important to remember that behavior is neither good nor bad; it’s just a response to something.
One main component of ABA therapy involves the “A-B-Cs.”
- A-Antecedent, or what happens right before the targeted behavior’
- B-Behavior, or what we want to shape, address, or modify
- C-Consequence, or what happens directly afterward
This system is employed to understand behaviors and why they occur. During ABA therapy, a BCBA will help individuals with autism learn appropriate coping skills to help them determine alternate ways to deal with tricky situations.
For example, suppose an individual feels overwhelmed by an argument between family members. In that case, they can leave the room to play with their fidget spinner in a quiet location. This five-minute cool-down can help their developmental outcome overall.
ABA therapy can also help individuals plan and cope ahead. By placing the individual in simulated situations where they can practice, children can learn what to expect and experience less anxiety. It also helps individuals learn to tolerate undesirable tasks without exhibiting problem behaviors.
What Are the Benefits of ABA Therapy for Children with Autism?
There are many benefits of ABA therapy as a treatment approach for children with autism. One of the massive benefits is that ABA therapy is individualized by design. To be reliable and successful, providers focus on details and ensure treatment plans are tailored for each child. They include appropriate reinforcement and are designed to be motivating.
Before beginning therapy, a BCBA will work with your family to learn about the individuals and their passions. For example, some children may enjoy being on their iPad or watching a favorite television show. Other children may be motivated by being at the park or going for a walk. Your BCBA will get to know your family and determine what variables make your child light up. ABA uses the child’s passions to help them express themselves appropriately.
Another enormous benefit of ABA therapy is that progress is defined on the individual’s timeline. ABA treatment will differ for every child, and no two cases will be identical. As the saying goes, if you have met one person who has autism, you have met one person who has autism. Each case requires individualization, and a conscious and reputable BCBA will take the time to get to know your child. The provider will take into consideration ability when creating attainable goals.
For example, let us say that a child hates getting dressed for school every morning and engages in unwanted behaviors to get out of it. The BCBA will recognize this problem area and work it into their therapy. The BCBA will create goals to make getting dressed more manageable and more enjoyable. Typically, the RBT will be the one to work directly with the child to build the skill over time until the child can complete the entire task independently.
What Does ABA Therapy Involve?
A crucial component of ABA therapy is that the treatment plan be adaptable to accommodate the evolution of the client with autism. When working with a qualified RBT or BCBA, your initial treatment plan will last for a set period of time, usually around six months. At the end of this plan, you and your BCBA will discuss the child’s progress.
During this meeting, you will also explore new goals and any other remaining concerns. If you and your BCBA conclude that the child has mastered a skill, you will begin to explore new plans that include more challenging skill sets.
Is ABA Therapy Effective?
ABA therapy is considered the only scientifically supported treatment method for the symptoms associated with autism. One of the significant reasons ABA is so effective is that it is based on understanding the child and their needs. It values their passions and works to keep things fun. Children should learn how to cope with life and communicate in their way through ABA therapy.
ABA therapy does not work overnight, but the results are well worth the energy and investment when used appropriately. There are more than 20 studies that point to the long-term benefits of ABA.
ABA research has found improved skills in:
- Social functioning
- Daily living
- Language development
- Cognitive and academic areas
Can ABA Therapy Help My Child?
ABA therapy sessions not only help the child with autism. When performed correctly, the entire family unit benefits from the therapy. The community also benefits because autistic individuals learn to participate at a higher level in their lives.
ABA helps individuals with autism to learn how to process information that is confusing and difficult for them. One of the most significant components of ABA therapy sessions is parent training, which teaches the many benefits of positive reinforcement. This creates consistency for the child and lessens unwanted behaviors.
With practice, new techniques will become second nature to the child, and you should see a difference in their responsiveness to their environment. By involving the entire family, siblings and the client can understand each other’s needs and build a stronger bond. This makes time together more enjoyable for everyone.
Where Can I Learn More?
If your loved one has been diagnosed with autism and needs treatment, consider scheduling time to meet with a BCBA to discuss your child and family and see if ABA therapy could be a good fit. Whether you need complete ABA therapy or a few meetings for parent training services, meeting with a BCBA can help you determine the best way to support the individual.
If you’d like more information about ABA therapy or have questions about whether it’s a good fit for your child, call ABA Centers of Florida at (772) 773-1975 for a free consultation or contact us: www.abacentersFL.com.