Your Guide to ABA Therapy
What Is Applied Behavior Analysis?
It is important to accept your child as they are and not try to force them to behave as if they were neurotypical. However, autism spectrum disorder can come with many challenges, especially when it comes to self-care, communication and social interactions. Applied behavior analysis is an effective treatment for children on the spectrum trying to manage these difficulties. Rather than trying to force a behavior on your child through punishment, this psychological technique relies on positive reinforcement. The reward system helps children view the desired behavior as a positive action that they can incorporate into their lives instead of seeing it as a negative requirement that you are imposing on them. Applied behavior analysis is also designed to be an individualized program rather than a cookie-cutter approach. It begins with an individual assessment and possibly a visit to a public setting such as school. The purpose of the assessment is to get a sense of your child’s specific struggles and problem behaviors. The therapy relies on the idea that each behavior serves a purpose in the mind of your Autistic child. Therefore, it treats thoughts and emotions as if they were behaviors to identify the root cause of the problematic behaviors. By focusing on thoughts and feelings, the therapy can figure out what comes before and after behavior use, which makes it easier to modify the behavior. ABA creates a set of goals and a specific, strategic intervention plan based on each child’s needs and motivations. Afterwards, the therapist will frequently monitor and re-evaluate your child’s progress to tweak goals as needed and help your child make the most noticeable progress possible.
What Challenges Can ABA Help With?
The emphasis on positive reinforcement comes from the study of how the brain learns. ABA therapy teaches new behaviors, but it does not try to make your child “neurotypical.” Instead, it focuses on embracing your child’s differences while helping change behaviors that make it harder to lead a happy, healthy and productive life, especially if your child has trouble with social skills or communication. For example, applied behavior analysis helps children with autism spectrum disorder feel more comfortable in school. Autism spectrum disorder can make it challenging to learn in a traditional academic setting, so it is important to develop strategies to increase focus and manage the classroom overall. School can also present challenges since your child will have to interact with the teachers and other children. Therefore, ABA therapy helps teach social skills such as appropriate language, showing interest in other people’s lives and healthy management of frustration. Communication can be a problem as well, so this therapeutic strategy works on increasing your child’s basic communication skills such as asking for an item that they want. Even at home, social interaction, sensory problems and deviations from the norm may be difficult to manage for a child with autism spectrum disorder. Frustration can lead to problem behaviors such as self-harm, inappropriate language, and outbursts or lashing out at others. Applied behavior analysis is designed to identify what thoughts surround these frustrations and develop skills to manage them without using harmful behaviors. These techniques can improve your child’s safety and overall quality of life. Self-care can be another difficult area. Personal hygiene and keeping things clean can be a struggle for some Autistic children, although every child has different struggles. Turning chores and grooming into desirable behaviors through positive reinforcement is important not only for health reasons, but also to increase confidence and make social interaction easier. The ability to take care of themselves and their surroundings can also help as your child works towards independence. Another important skill set that applied behavior analysis focuses on is fine motor skills and speech-language acquisition, both of which can help with self-care, independence and communication. Reading, listening, eye contact and imitation are also covered in ABA treatments. These skills can help your child understand the world and those around them so that they feel more connected. Therapists teach all of these skills with a patient, step-by-step approach to make learning a less frustrating, more positive experience.
What Does ABA Treatment Involve?
The treatment process usually starts with finding an ABA therapy agency such as Achievement Therapy Services to make sure that you find a therapist who has received proper training in this method. The therapist should be supervised by a board-certified behavior analyst. Once you find a therapist, treatment typically involves a combination of therapies. In-home ABA therapy is a popular option for individual sessions since your child might be more receptive to treatment in a comfortable, familiar environment. Applied behavior analysis treatments also frequently include group therapies that can teach commonly needed skills and provide a space to practice social skills and communication. In addition, ABA therapies provide educational programs for parents or caregivers so you can help your child develop needed skills. You can also learn to manage situations such as tantrums without giving in and “rewarding” this behavior. Additionally, part of ABA involves coming up with a plan for school to help make an appropriate IEP. These steps are nearly as important as your child’s individual and group therapy since it is much more difficult for a child to make progress without a support network. As a caregiver, you can also continue learning what your child enjoys most during this process since you need to know which toys or activities will be good motivators to reinforce positive behavior use. Motivators are especially important at first because you will need to give your child positive cues in response to behaviors. Later, positive behavior will become a habit and require less rewards. Applied behavior analysis has been proven to be an effective treatment for children with autism spectrum disorder due to its positive, engaging and supportive approach. Agencies such as Achievement Therapy Services have been highly successful in reducing harmful behaviors and promoting positive ones that improve their clients’ overall quality of life.