ABA Therapy Unpacked – How Does It Work?

Talking with child

Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy, also called ABA, is a branch of therapy used to improve the communication, learning, and social skills of specific individuals by applying “reinforcement strategies.”  ABA is currently the most used and most professionally approved type of treatment for children who have varying types of Autism Spectrum disorder, but it is also used in the treatment of conditions such as dementia, eating disorders, substance abuse, anger issues, borderline personality disorder, and others. If you’ve never encountered medical or therapeutic terms like ABA or “reinforcement strategies,” these can seem more than a little scary and can easily become overwhelming. In this article, we’ll break down ABA therapy in the context of the treatment of children on the autism spectrum and help you understand why it is the gold standard and such a practical option.

How ABA Therapy Works

ABA therapy is carried out in several phases, beginning with consultation and assessment and then the development of a plan on a patient by patient basis, as no two cases are alike. In the consultation phase, you’ll speak to a trained therapist who will assess the potential patient’s current abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. The therapist will take the time they need to interact with your child and observe their behavior and skills on a regular day. They may also make a visit to their school. These detailed observations will then be used to create a therapy plan for your child, which will align with their needs and goals. These goals are usually to reduce problematic behaviors like self-injury or tantrums and to improve communication skills. A good therapist will communicate this plan and goals to any caregivers as well as teachers to ensure that all interactions work towards the same purpose.

ABA therapy will make use of different tactics depending on the goal, the child’s age, and condition:

  • Discrete trial training increases skill level by using structured task completion systems and offering rewards.
  • Early intensive behavioral intervention is only used for children younger than five years old and uses an intensely structured curriculum to teach social and communication skills as well as adaptive and functional skills.
  • Pivotal response training offers a child-led approach, with several choices in any scenario based on the child’s skills.
  • Verbal behavior intentions aim to help children become more verbal or communicate more effectively.
  • The early start Denver model uses play to incorporate more than one activity at once

Why Is ABA Used Mostly for Autistic Children?

ABA therapy has worked wonders for children on the Autism spectrum because its approach uses positive reinforcement to increase positive behavior and negative reinforcement to decrease negative behavior. This simple structure can be misinterpreted by nervous parents; your children will not be given spankings, don’t worry! The interventions that ABA uses aim to diminish the excess in the behavior of autistic children and to provide them with the tools that they need to handle their emotions and the situations that they find themselves in. Skills like social interactions, increased memory, and communication will increase your child’s ability to learn.

ABA is so effective in Autistic children because the process is adapted to the needs of each individual. Every child demonstrates different skills at different levels, has issues unique to their case, and will learn at their own pace. Any, one size fits all, therapy is simply not appropriate for children with autism as the approach is not tailored to the case. ABA can be applied in any location, whether it is at home with your family, at school with other learners, or out in the community when playing or running errands. ABA is what is known as an evidence-based therapy, which makes it perfectly suitable for the treatment of children on the Autism spectrum. The evidence of how the treatment works for your child is constantly collected and analyzed by your therapist and used to add to or detract from the plan that you set out before therapy began. If a particular approach does not work, the therapist will try something else: the program can evolve until it is ideally suited to your child’s specific needs. The therapy has also passed all the required tests and has all the necessary certifications.

Final Word

ABA therapy is the gold standard in the treatment of Autistic children for a good reason. The therapy is tailored to individuals and administered on a case-by-case basis in any location. Its proven results speak for themselves. We hope that you have a good understanding of ABA and all its benefits and can use this information to make an informed decision about whether ABA is right for your child.