Two toddlers sitting with mom on sofa

ABA therapy is often considered the “golden standard” of autism therapy. This is a scientific approach to therapy which is designed to improve specific behaviors and skills in many arenas in life, but is most notable for those with autism. When delivered in a professional setting, it’s overseen by a qualified expert known as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).       

However, while ABA therapy is a highly qualified field of therapy, this doesn’t mean that parents or other caregivers can’t apply ABA therapy techniques at home. So to help parents off on the right track, we’ve put together a quick list on how to do ABA therapy at home.

But just a quick note before we start. If you’re already working with an ABA therapist then they’ve no doubt already discussed ABA therapy techniques to use at home. In which case, discuss any changes you want to make or new ideas you have with your therapist first.

First off, what is ABA therapy?

Essentially, ABA therapy focuses on improving specific behaviors and skills in people with autism. This includes social skills, communication and domestic activities.

At a very high level, this is how the process works:

  • An ABA therapist identifies a needed skill
  • As the child engages in the desired skill or appropriate behavior they gain access to reinforcing items
  • Over time, this reinforcement encourages the child to continue engaging in the targeted skills 

ABA therapy in the home  

As you can see the purpose of ABA therapy is to improve skills and behavior. Therefore, ABA therapy techniques at home should focus on this objective. In which case, the techniques that are best for your child will depend on their individual circumstances. But here are some common exercises that many parents find useful and effective around the home. 

Sit in the chair

You can incorporate this into daily activities where your child is required to sit in a chair, such as meal times. Sit down and then ask your child to take a seat opposite you, facing your direction. Make it as fun and tactil as possible. Provide plenty of praise when this is achieved.

Look at me 

This is a good exercise to encourage your child to make and maintain eye contact with you. To do this, use a visual stimuli such as blowing bubbles from your mouth. This can also be incorporated with the above activity, once your child develops their ability to sit still in a chair.

Match the colors 

For this exercise, try and use objects around the home that your child is familiar with and recognises. Examples include toy cars, crayons or socks. Select one item and ask your child to match all the other items that are the same color. Start with colors that are the same shade. As your child develops their skills, incorporate different shades of each color into the activity.

Identify the emotions

This is a great activity for children that struggle with emotion regulation. Print out a range of emojis (such as a smiley, sad and angry face, etc), then place each one face down. Your child then picks up one at a time and has to identify the correct emotion. You can also use this activity to open up broader discussions around their own and other people’s emotions.

Sort household items

This activity requires illustrated boards and cards of rooms in the home and the typical items found in each room. You can find these in most toy stores or online. Your child needs to match each item with each room, which is a great way to build some early level life skills.

Identify the function

Again, this activity requires some materials, which you can either download and print out or buy. Here’s a good example of the type of cards you need for this. Your child then needs to use the context provided on each card, in order to choose the correct object for the function. This helps to develop both their functional skills and their vocabulary.         

Remember, positive reinforcement is vital 

Modern ABA therapy techniques are all about incorporating fun and stimulating activities into your child’s daily routines. But for the newly acquired skills and behaviours to stick, you need to use plenty of positive reinforcement. In practice, this can mean lots of different things, such as praise whenever an activity is performed correctly, or giving your child access to reinforcing items, such as favorite toys.

Ultimately, when using ABA therapy techniques at home, experiment with different activities, at different times of the day, with different family members. This will enable you to discover which activities are the most effective and when are the best times to do them. 

For more autism resources for families in New Jersey, visit our blog directory. Or if you would like to find out more about the ABA services we provide to children with autism, you can get in touch here.

Featured image photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash

Estee Rothstein BCBA, Executive Director at Golden Care Therapy

Estee Rothstein BCBA, Executive Director at Golden Care Therapy

Estee Rothstein is the Executive Director of Golden Care Therapy. She is a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with a master’s degree in Education. A proud mom of six, Estee brings her unique parenting perspective to her long career working with children with autism that spans more than 20 years. Outside of running her business, Estee also provides advice and consultancy to other professionals working in the field, and is a frequent speaker and writer on a range of autism topics.