Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is a widely recognized treatment for autism spectrum disorder. But did you know that people without an autism diagnosis can also benefit from this form of therapy? Continue reading to learn more about how ABA works and what other conditions it can treat.
What Is ABA Therapy?
ABA is short for Applied Behavior Analysis. The purpose of ABA therapy is to improve specific behaviors, such as social, communication, and learning skills. This type of therapy is based on a reward system where a treat or privilege is offered for demonstrating a desired behavior.
ABA therapy sessions combine various activities, direct instructions, modeling, and family guidance. The therapist starts by breaking down the essential skills into small steps that are easy to learn and gradually builds toward more significant changes.
Applied behavior analysis can be used for adults and children of all ages in many different settings, including homes, schools, clinics, and workplaces.
What Does ABA Therapy Help Treat?
ABA therapy is the most effective treatment for autism spectrum disorder. It is the only proven and scientifically recognized method for treating autism with very high success rates.
Although ABA therapy can’t cure autism, it can help develop and improve a wide range of skills, such as:
- Activities of daily living (dressing, eating, personal hygiene, toileting)
- Language abilities (speaking, understanding language)
- Communication skills (initiating conversations, responding to questions)
- Social skills (using social cues, making friends)
- Adaptive behaviors (following rules, avoiding danger)
- Basic pre-academic and academic skills
- Reducing aggressive behaviors and replacing them with more acceptable ones.
In addition to managing behaviors of autistic children, the principles of ABA therapy are commonly used in treating individuals with other types of developmental disabilities, mental health issues, and chronic conditions. Applied behavior analysis methods are also successfully employed in classroom management when working with neurotypical children who don’t have any behavioral or cognitive disorders.
Continue reading to learn what other conditions can be treated with applied behavior analysis.
Other Conditions Treated with ABA Therapy
ABA was originally designed to treat children with autism. However, it has since become an effective form of therapy for a range of behavioral issues, cognitive disorders, developmental delays, and diseases affecting children, adolescents, and adults.
ABA therapy has been proven effective in helping patients improve their overall quality of life by targeting problematic behaviors and replacing them with more acceptable alternatives.
Some of the conditions that can be successfully treated with ABA therapy include:
- Anger issues
- Anxiety disorders
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
- Cognitive impairment after brain injury
- Developmental disorders
- Eating disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Oppositional defiant disorder
- Panic disorder
- Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Sleep problems
- Substance abuse disorders
- Traumatic brain injury.
Before your child starts with ABA therapy, it is helpful to learn more about the process and what to expect. Here’s what you need to know.
How Does ABA Therapy Work?
If you are considering ABA therapy for your child, you may be wondering how to proceed. Below, we break down the steps you need to take from the moment your child receives a diagnosis until they can start therapy.
Receiving an official autism diagnosis
Before you start looking for an ABA provider, you need to obtain the official autism diagnosis for your child by a licensed medical professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or developmental pediatrician.
Most insurance companies require a comprehensive diagnosis and a prescription or referral from your child’s doctor to be able to authorize ABA therapy.
Consultation with an ABA provider
Once you have chosen an ABA provider, you will be invited for an informal meeting where you will learn more about the organization, its philosophy, and its treatment style. You will also be expected to answer some questions to help the provider get to know your child and your family better.
Conducting functional behavior assessment (FBA)
A board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) will conduct a functional behavior assessment of your child. The assessment consists in gathering information about your child’s behavior and skills through direct observation and interviews with the family.
Based on the information gathered during the assessment phase, a therapist will make a clinical recommendation as to the number of therapy hours your child should receive as well as the required parent training hours.
The total number of weekly sessions will depend on whether your child needs to follow a focused or comprehensive treatment.
Focused treatment requires 10-25 hours of one-on-one therapy and/or group therapy per week. It is used for children with autism who have few challenging behaviors that need to be improved, such as social skills or daily living skills.
Comprehensive treatment requires more than 25 hours and up to 40 hours of individual therapy sessions per week. It is recommended for autistic children who show deficits in most areas of development.
Submitting for approval
The completed FBA and the therapist’s recommendations are submitted to the insurance provider for authorization.
Developing a treatment plan
Once your insurance provider approves the ABA services, the therapist will develop an individualized treatment plan that is the best fit for your child’s needs. Because symptoms and levels of severity vary within the autism spectrum, the treatment plan will look different for every child.
The treatment plan may also include other interventions such as speech therapy and occupational therapy, Individualized Education Program (IEP), dietary interventions, and/or use of medications.
Your child is now ready to start one-on-one sessions with the therapist. Depending on the child’s needs and your goals, each therapy session can last anywhere from one hour to several hours.
The therapist will record data and milestones that your child meets throughout the treatment. This data will clearly show progress and help make any adjustments to the treatment plan if needed. The therapist will regularly update the goals and share them with the family during monthly meetings.