Applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy has changed countless of autistic children’s lives, but some people also had bad experiences with it.

This article highlights how ABA therapy improves autistic kids’ quality of life and what you can do to choose an accredited ABA therapist who can effectively assist your child with achieving their desired goals.

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What is ABA therapy?

ABA therapy is a form of treatment that helps autistic children learn new social, educational, emotional, and cognitive skills.

Just as importantly, ABA therapy is used to address and reduce problematic behaviors among kids with autism.

This technique is one of the most widely-renowned methods for managing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) symptoms.

History of ABA therapy

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy is a scientific approach to understanding and changing behavior. Its history dates back to the early 20th century, with roots in the behavioral psychology of B.F. Skinner.

  1. 1930s-1950s: The groundwork for ABA was laid by B.F. Skinner, an American psychologist and behaviorist. He developed the theory of operant conditioning, which is the idea that behavior is determined by its consequences—whether they’re rewards or punishments.

  2. 1960s: ABA therapy as we know it began to take shape thanks to Dr. Ivar Lovaas and his colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). They used principles of learning theory to teach children with autism and developmental disabilities.

  3. 1980s: The term “Applied Behavior Analysis” was coined during this time. ABA started to become recognized as a unique field. Its techniques were refined and standardized.

  4. 1990s-2000s: Research studies began to demonstrate the effectiveness of ABA therapy for autism, leading to wider acceptance and use. In 1999, the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) was established to meet professional credentialing needs identified by behavior analysts, governments, and consumers of behavior analysis services.

  5. Today: ABA therapy is now widely recognized as an effective therapy for autism and other developmental disorders. It’s endorsed by the U.S. Surgeon General and the American Psychological Association, among others.

While ABA therapy has evolved over decades, its core principle remains the same: to help individuals improve specific behaviors and reach their goals using evidence-based techniques.

Is ABA a safe form of therapy?

Yes, it certainly is. In fact, ABA therapy is evidence backed, which means that its principles are based on thorough and extensive academic studies and research.

ABA is a scientifically-proven and medically-recognized therapy, especially when it comes to minimizing autistic children’s engagement in socially and physically damaging actions.

Does ABA force children to do things that are physically painful?

No, ABA therapists should never force kids to act or behave in a physically-painful way.

This is not to say that ABA can’t be uncomfortable. For that matter, your son or daughter may need time to gradually get used to it and feel secure around the therapist, but it isn’t a painful process at all.

The Controversy

ABA therapy is surrounded by some controversy. To clarify, ABA’s techniques revolve around rewarding your autistic child when they behave in a desired manner, such as by giving them a snack, letting them play with their toys, or allowing them to watch their favorite TV show.

As far as the controversy goes, critics point out that ABA therapy makes children robot-like because they don’t actually understand why a certain behavior is sensible or considered positive. Instead, their main incentive is the reward.

To avoid running into this problem, you want to ensure that you pick a qualified, experienced, and certified ABA specialist for your autistic son or daughter.

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Myths about ABA therapy

There are several common myths and misconceptions about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy that can lead to confusion or misunderstanding. Here are some of them debunked:

  1. Myth: ABA therapy isn’t backed by science. Numerous studies have demonstrated that ABA is an effective therapy for individuals with autism and other developmental disorders.

  2. Myth: ABA Therapy is trying to cure Autism. There is no ‘cure’ for autism. ABA therapy aims to help individuals improve specific behaviors and reach their goals, not to ‘cure’ them of autism.

  3. Myth: ABA is an experimental treatment and is not scientifically demonstrated to be effective. This is inaccurate. ABA is a well-established and evidence-based practice, endorsed by the U.S. Surgeon General and the American Psychological Association.

  4. Myth: ABA Therapy Is Only for Children With Autism. While it’s most commonly known to treat children with autism, ABA Therapy can benefit anyone in need of behavior modification.

  5. Myth: ABA therapy is too time-consuming. It is true that ABA therapy can be intensive, but the time commitment often leads to significant improvements in behavior and quality of life.

  6. Myth: ABA is harmful and uses aversive procedures. Ethical practitioners of ABA prioritize the use of positive reinforcement strategies and avoid using aversive or harmful techniques.

  7. Myth: ABA therapy will “heal” the child. ABA therapy can greatly improve the quality of life of children with autism and other developmental disorders, but it is not a ‘cure’ or ‘healing’ treatment.

  8. Myth: Reinforcement in ABA is bribery. Correct use of reinforcement is a core aspect of ABA and acts as a motivator to learn, it’s not considered bribery.

How to know if your ABA therapist is qualified

While you interview and screen potential therapists for your child, you must keep a close eye on their training, certifications, and credentials. If a therapist has had improper training or does not follow the proper techniques, they have the potential to increase negative behaviors.

Namely, you should hire a therapist that is either:

  • A Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).
  • A holder of another certification that was issued by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).
  • A graduate student who is studying ABA and, in the same vein, is being directly supervised by a BCBA on a weekly basis.

Professionals that have one or more of the above attainments can create a treatment program that suits your kid’s specific needs and circumstances.

How do you know if your child’s ABA therapist is providing appropriate therapy?

The appropriateness and effectiveness of the therapist’s techniques are equally as important as their credentials. In other words, the right ABA professional would rely on methods that particularly focus on the results that you would like your child to achieve.

To illustrate, here are a few things that can help you and your autistic son or daughter with reaching your objectives:

Set Goals

As a parent, you want to initially sit down with your child’s therapist to talk about your goals. This should be discussed with clarity and preciseness before your kid’s first ABA session.

Build an Individualized Therapy Plan

Similarly, the therapist has to create a custom plan that is centered on your child’s individual aims, needs, and desires.

Examples of those are improving their conversational skills, helping them perform better in social settings, and enabling them to sit still in class or at the dinner table.

Make Changes When Necessary

Simply put, you should make changes and adjustments when you realize that the ABA sessions aren’t yielding the aspired results. At times, the therapist may have to modify one or more of their approaches.

However, switching to another therapy provider must not be ruled out when necessary.

Above all, when you make these decisions, you want to do so based on whether or not your kid is learning new skills and/or getting better at managing their problematic behaviors.

ABA therapy is safe and physically harmless as long as a qualified and certified practitioner is providing it. Just as importantly, it is also efficient and effective when the ABA therapist utilizes methods that cater to your son or daughter’s individual needs, goals, and desires.

How aba therapy helps children with autism

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy is an evidence-based intervention used significantly in treating individuals, especially children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Here’s how ABA Therapy helps:

  1. Improving Communication Skills: ABA therapy can help increase language and communication skills, enabling children to express their needs and thoughts more effectively.

  2. Enhancing Social Skills: For children with autism who have good language skills, behavioral intervention can be used to teach and support learning the social skills necessary to interact with others.

  3. Developing Behavioral Skills: Studies have shown that ABA therapy is effective in helping children with autism learn new behaviors and skills.

  4. Increasing Attention and Focus: ABA therapy can improve attention, focus, memory, and academic skills, which are essential for success in school and everyday life.

  5. Decreasing Problematic Behaviors: ABA therapy can also help reduce problem behaviors like self-harm, making it easier for children to participate in family and community life.

  6. Promoting Independent Living Skills: ABA therapy can enhance basic and essential life skills, supporting children with ASD in developing the capability to live independently.

  7. Early Intervention: The effectiveness of ABA therapy increases when started as early as possible, often leading to substantial improvements in communication, social relationships, play, self-care, and school.

Remember that the specific benefits a child may experience from ABA therapy can vary based on individual circumstances, including the severity of symptoms, the specific goals of therapy, and other factors.


If you are ready to work with the best ABA therapy provider in New York, New Jersey or Indiana, give us a call at (732) 402-0297. Our dedicated team is ready to help and we will treat you like family.

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