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Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy: Helping Children With Special Needs

Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy: Helping Children With Special Needs

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a methodology and science that is based on learning and behavior. It is a set of principles that can help teach important skills when personalized to the child/individual.

ABA is evidence based, using reflective teaching and tracking progress to celebrate every achievement through fun and motivating learning. 

ABA helps us to understand how behavior works and how the environment affects it. By applying this to learning, ABA can help with increasing language and communication as well as improving academic and self-help skills.

Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy: Helping Children With Special Needs

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy is a treatment plan for Autism Spectrum Disorder, which has proven success in mainstreaming many children with ASD into the public school system with minimal assistance.  

Autism intervention programs have been developed by ABA therapists in order to help children increase cognitive and behavioral function as well as to promote independence in learning and everyday tasks. As such, ABA therapy is effective in improving almost all aspects of an autistic child’s life.

ABA therapy breaks down a child’s behavior into objective, measurable units so behavioral data can be collected and observed in order to assess the child’s behaviors, identify the skills the child needs to develop, and record the effectiveness of the therapy over time. 

This evidence-based therapy approach makes ABA therapy’s results clearly demonstrable.  According to a 1999 Surgeon General’s report: Thirty years of research demonstrated the efficacy of applied behavioral methods in reducing inappropriate behavior and increasing communication, learning, and appropriate social behavior.

Although costs for ABA therapy can be considerable, consultations and therapy is offered both in-clinic and at-home by many practitioners. 

In addition to a child’s school environment, ABA training can be implemented at home and in play areas. Incorporating an ABA therapy program outside the classroom and clinic can help decrease the costs for services, materials and environmental modification.

Treatment Options

There are many different types of therapy available for children with autism, however due to its evidence based approach, ABA therapy has a proven track record of results that more subjectively administered therapies cannot match.  

ABA therapy is administered through a hierarchical treatment structure established by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts (APBA) and the Association for Behavior Analysts International (ABAI).  

Before considering ABA therapy for your child, it is suggested that you interview one or more consultants in order to obtain their opinion on the best approach for addressing your child’s needs. 

Most consultants that work with an associated clinic are Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs). Certified consultants are equipped and trained to develop and administer individualized ABA therapy programs for a child. 

Consultants may often have teams of uncertified assistants that aid in administering therapy under the certified consultant’s guidance but do not develop therapy plans or make analytic decisions.

Observing and learning this therapy approach will help in decreasing costs while improving the intensity of the training for the child, since the parent can learn to implement the exercises in the home and play areas on top of the classroom and clinical training being provided. 

This will usually improve the child’s progress but is not a substitute to the services of a qualified consultant or technician. 

Applied Behavior Analysis based therapy is quite costly.  Some consultants may charge up to $120 per hour for their services, not including the costs of environmental modifications or other materials.

ABA Therapy Basics

At Right Start Inc our Applied Behavioral Analysis trained professionals use positive reinforcement to teach children desired behaviors. 

When a child demonstrates the correct behavior in response to an environmental trigger such as a sound or a request from a parent or teacher, the child is rewarded with a reinforcer that is appropriate to the behavior and the particular child.  

A reinforcer could be anything from a special treat to a chance to play with a favorite toy, or even just a smile or a hug from the requestor.  The child’s typical environment is studied carefully to determine what triggers cause the child to behave undesirably. 

Over the course of therapy, a consultant will work to either remove triggers that lead to undesirable behaviors or to change the child’s response to those triggers.

It is important to note that Autism Spectrum Disorder is exactly that – a disorder – and not a disease.  There is no cure for autism and once a child is diagnosed as being autistic the condition remains permanent.  

ABA therapy seeks to improve a child’s ability to cope with the condition, not to overcome or cure it.  Efficacy of the therapy will depend on how severe the child’s autistic condition is and how early therapy is initiated in order to address the child’s developmental needs.

Although there is no cure for autism, many children under four years old who have undergone therapy based on Applied Behavior Analysis will experience measurably improved social and verbal skills, and in some cases even a significant increase in IQ.  

As such, ABA therapy is considered to be the most effective evidence-based therapeutic approach to children with autism.