If your child has recently been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), you’ve probably been investigating different therapeutic options to help your child thrive. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a therapy that has been shown to significantly improve behavior and skills in people with ASD, so it’s worth learning more about. Here, we offer a brief overview of ABA to help you decide if it’s right for your child.
ABA focuses on improving specific behaviors by adjusting the environment and consequences. These behaviors include social skills, communication, reading, and academics, but they also include adaptive learning skills like fine motor dexterity, hygiene, grooming, domestic capabilities, and job competence. When ABA is used consistently, it is effective for children and adults, and can improve behaviors and skills to the degree that the need for special services is decreased.
To influence behavior, we must understand it. When we use ABA, we take a scientific approach to understanding behavior, focusing on how behaviors change, how environment affects behaviors, and how learning takes place. The principles of ABA address environmental variables that impact behavior, known as antecedents and consequences. Antecedents happen right before a behavior, and consequences follow the behavior. Comprehensive ABA plans address antecedents, behaviors, and consequences and find ways to modify the antecedents and consequences to impact behavior.
Applied Behavior Analysis principals are used in several different ways. Sometimes, the goal is to increase certain behaviors, like listening to speakers or greeting people. It may be that you want to maintain behaviors, as in the case of reading previously learned sight words. ABA can also be used to help generalize or transfer behavior from one situation to another, and to reduce challenging behaviors.
Used correctly, ABA helps people manage many lifestyle challenges. When applied systematically, ABA principles can help individuals learn new skills and apply them in their daily lives. The range of behaviors that can be addressed is far reaching and includes things as diverse as social skills, reading, toileting, riding a bus, requesting objects, and conversing with colleagues.
Antecedents and consequences can be altered to affect learning. To target antecedents, instruction, instructional materials, environment, and student tasks can modified to meet the needs of the student. To implement consequences, negative and positive reinforcement can both be used effectively. It’s important, when using ABA, to have clear goals, measurable outcomes, and consistency. The best results are accomplished under heavy monitoring and continuous evaluation by a qualified applied behavior analyst.
If your child has been diagnosed with ASD, The Stepping Stones Group is here to offer support, keeping you informed of opportunities and providing important support services.