ABA Therapy for Autism

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy designs support programs for children with autism based on the science of learning and behavior. Children with autism process information differently from neurotypical children.

ABA therapy considers how a child’s environment can affect behavior, how behavior itself works, and how it can affect a child’s learning potential. ABA therapy uses real-world examples and context to help children with autism increase behaviors that support learning and eliminate those that are not productive.

ABA Therapy and ASD

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) impacts a child’s ability to organize, plan, sequence, and prioritize their daily activities. Predictive and sequential thinking is a challenge for autistic children, causing them to have a hard time learning in a regular classroom setting.

ABA therapists use direct and frequent measurement as confirmation for strategies that work (or don’t work) for each child. This is why ABA therapy is termed self-correcting in nature.

Discrete trial teaching is incorporated within the child’s natural environment so that their strength areas are maximized and therapy is successful. ABA techniques focus on behaviors as well as social and emotional skills.

How ABA Therapy Works

The ABA therapist establishes a personal connection with each child and family. This relationship is an important foundation for the ongoing support the child receives, and ensures that therapy is successful.

ABA is touted as a flexible and evidence-based form of therapy for children with autism, as the scientific-backed strategies constructively encourage a child’s growth and development.

If a strategy is not affecting the desired impact on a child’s behavior, the ABA therapist fine-tunes it to meet the child’s specific situation. Sometimes, an ABA therapist removes a strategy from the list entirely and replaces it with a more appropriate strategy for the child.

ABA therapy helps children with autism increase their language and communication skills and improve attention, focus, memory, and cognitive grasp. In every situation, the child and their behavior become the guide for how ABA is implemented. The flexible nature of ABA therapy makes positive outcomes more likely.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is the most widely used strategy within ABA therapy, as it encourages children with ASD to learn new skills and curb behaviors which cause concern. Through positive reinforcement, encouragement is given by using a reinforcer or reward, such as a favorite food, desired activity, or tangible prize.

For instance, if a child commonly becomes upset when asked to wash hands before mealtime, their reward for washing hands without throwing a tantrum could be a special treat or a sticker.

Each time the child demonstrates targeted behavior or uses a skill successfully, they are rewarded. Positive reinforcement works on the principle that the rewards encourage the child to continue using a newly acquired behavior or skill so that, over time, there is a significant behavior change.

Planning and Continuous Assessment

ABA therapists work in tandem with board-certified behavior analysts (BCBAs) who are trained professionals in the study of understanding behavior patterns and discovering the needs of children with ASD. The ABA therapist writes up a specific treatment objective in consultation with a child’s parents. A plan is created by breaking down the steps involved in introducing and attaining the desired skills. Skills that are set for a child with ASD typically include the following:

  • Communication and language
  • Social skills
  • Self-care and hygiene
  • Play and leisure
  • Motor skills
  • Cognitive and academic skills

Therapy sessions typically take place one-on-one between the child and therapist, and there may be one or more therapy sessions per week. The ABA therapist also makes sure that the child’s parents and caregivers are trained in ABA-based practices so that they can reinforce the child’s learning between sessions. 

At each therapy session, the therapist observes and measures the child’s progress against set goals. Based on the child’s progress, the therapist may decide to revise or adjust the predetermined plans.

Collaborative Practices

ABA therapy is most effective when it is practiced as a continuous process. Encouraging the child to acquire new behaviors and skills in their therapy session as well as in their natural environments, such as school and home, is vital for success.

ABA therapists involve the parents in every step of the process: from identifying needs and designing goals to planning and delivering specific interventions for the child.

Collaborating with schools and following family-centered practices is an essential part of any successful ABA program. Collaboration between therapists, parents, and learning professionals offers the child more opportunities to develop and grow towards their targeted goals.

When using family-centered practices, parents are fully involved in the process, leading to empowerment to make meaningful decisions. For the partnership to be effective, family-centered planning is essential in all stages of the process.

ABA Strategies

ABA therapists may use a combination of strategies to encourage behavioral skills in children with autism.

Discrete Trial Training

This technique utilizes a series of trials to encourage step-by-step learning. Correct behaviors and answers are rewarded, while mistakes are ignored.

Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention

Children (generally ages five and below) work with a therapist one-on-one or within a small group. This therapy is typically administered over several years to help the child develop communication skills and reduce problematic behaviors, including aggression or self-harm.

Pivotal Response Training

This strategy is used in a child’s everyday environment to teach pivotal skills, such as the motivation to learn or initiate communication.

Verbal Behavior Intervention

The child works with a therapist to learn why and how humans use language to communicate their needs.

Positive Behavior Support

This involves making environmental changes to the home or classroom to make good behavior more rewarding.

Working with ABA Therapy for Autism at Award Behavioral Health

At Award Behavioral Health, our ABA programs are designed and monitored by our team of qualified and trained behavior analysts. We promote a child-centered approach to encourage every child to reach their full potential by providing: 

  • Support in the delivery of an inclusive education 
  • Supporting learners to continue progressing to the best of their ability  
  • Supporting school management and staff with tools and awareness
  • Understand the individual learner, consider their strengths and needs 
  • Make appropriate adjustments to teaching and learning for the learner
  • Ensure that the school curriculum is accessible through the way in which:
    • Activities are presented
    • Modifications are made to the curriculum when required
    • Specific consideration is given to the social curriculum
  • Ensure the classroom is an inclusive environment and enable the environment which takes into account physical, communication, and social aspects of children with neuroatypical development.
  • Support differentiation in teaching styles and approaches needed and shared between home and school settings to minimize difficulties.
  • Support collaboration and partnership with the family. 
  • Keep consistent routines and give plenty of warning about any change.
  • Use visual cues (pictures or objects) to help communication and understanding.
  • Help identify and mitigate triggers (the things which seem to cause strong reactions) and try altering the environment to reduce the likelihood of further triggers.
  • Use visual cues (pictures or objects) to help communication and understanding.

If you think ABA therapy could help your child manage their ASD diagnosis better, please contact Award Behavioral Health for a consultation.

For appointments, call us at (800) 249-9569 or contact us online.

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