What is ABA Therapy?
Applied behavior analysis is a form of treatment for the developmental disorder ASD, also known as autism spectrum disorder or autism. ABA is a form of therapy that helps to create new behavioral patterns by rewarding the desired behaviors through reinforcement thereby helping the patient to create a new life and learning skills.
ABA therapy is particularly good for people with autism as it can help them to bridge the gap in their behaviors. ABA is a great way to help teach children with autism language and communication skills, greater confidence in social situations, and many more skills that can make their lives a bit more comfortable.
How Does ABA Therapy Work?
ABA is very goal-oriented. The technician, or therapist, will identify a small task or achievement for the lesson that day and help guide the person towards that goal employing rewards.
Every time the child successfully performs the task or the behavior, they are given a reward as an indication that they did it. The reward is generally something small in nature, but big in the mind. Things like verbal praise and cheering, toys, books, playtime on playgrounds, and other fun activities are all methods of rewarding the child.
Additionally, therapists look to discover the triggers that prevent the child from completing the task properly. Triggers vary from child to child and can change over time, but they can be debilitating for a child with autism who has not learned how to self-regulate their emotions around their triggers.
The most common triggers for a child with autism are loud, unexpected noises, tiredness, hunger, clutter, distracting objects, or something attention-grabbing that distracts them from the goal at hand.
Once the therapist has identified the triggers that can derail a child, the therapist can begin to craft some possible solutions for that trigger to help the child better focus on the goal and to self-regulate their distractions and emotions. Removing the trigger or helping to soothe the child are both possible solutions, but many therapists will create custom solutions for the child they are treating.
Lastly, ABA therapy focuses on communication between the families of the child, the child themself, and the therapist. Each session with the child gives the therapist a huge amount of qualitative data and information about the behaviors of the child and how the child responds to different stimuli.
Proper and effective communication between the therapist and the families of the child can help to increase the success of the ABA therapy at home and beyond when the family knows what to look for, reinforce, and reward.
Pros of ABA Therapy
There are many pros of ABA therapy that you should know before getting started. Here, we will get into some of the benefits and great aspects of ABA therapy that can help your child grow and learn more life skills.
Research Proven Effectiveness
There has been tons of research conducted that proves ABA therapy’s legitimate success and effectiveness, particularly with children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Additionally, ABA therapy is one of the longest developmental or behavioral treatments.
ABA therapy has certainly stood the test of time and is backed by psychological therapies that are taught in psychology 101 classes around the world. ABA therapy is a form of classical conditioning in which the child is conditioned towards certain behaviors and away from others which can help them become more independent beings.
Specialized for Your Child
ABA therapy is specialized for each patient entering therapy. A plan is made by the therapist after meeting and observing the child. The plan may be subject to change as the child grows and develops further, but the plan is their unique strategy for that child.
Not many treatments can say the same.
ABA therapy is led by trained professionals with an extensive background in therapy and psychological behavior. This is not some led by a group leader or a psychology student looking to get some clinical hours for their graduate degree.
With ABA therapy, there are no confusing suggestion guidelines, or do-it-yourself style strategies. You are guided by your child’s therapist to help. Plus, you can establish boundaries that you want your child and therapist to have when it comes to reinforcing behaviors.
Some of the skills proved to be enhanced through ABA therapy are learning skills, social skills, cognitive function, self-regulation and self-help skills, communication, and improved independence.
Cons of ABA Therapy
While ABA therapy is a fantastic option for many people, it still has some issues that can be a problem for some people. Some of the cons of ABA therapy are as follows.
Some poorly trained ABA therapists can give subpar results. This can make certain reinforced behaviors robotic or odd. This is not permanent and can be fixed by visiting a well-trained and certified ABA therapist who understands human behavior, particularly autistic children’s behavior.
Hard to Find
Good ABA therapists can be very hard to find, and you must find an ABA therapist who is trained properly and understand the art of ABA therapy. Without a good ABA therapist, your child reinforced behaviors can end up robotic, as stated earlier.
It can take a while for the results to show. ABA therapy is certainly not an overnight fix to behavioral problems and you should not expect to see results after one session.
Have patience and trust in your child’s ability to learn, in their ability to be flexible and create new neural pathways. Creating new neural pathways takes time for everyone, so do not get impatient.
ABA therapy can be expensive and is occasionally outside of insurance, so it can be a chunk of money coming out of your pocket.
ABA therapy is generally not offered in many schools. Additionally, ABA is not an academic approach to behavior. It is focused on the response and actions of the child, not necessarily the cognitive pre-thought to the behavior.
ABA has critics that say it suppresses the self-expression of the child because it is altering the behaviors the child naturally wants to express. Critics also say that this suppression could be emotionally harmful later in life.