Applied behavior analysis is a field of science just like chemistry, physics, and biology. It is a natural science that focuses on optimizing a child’s environment to increase behaviors we want more of and decrease behaviors we want less of. ABA is the science that guides all behavioral interventions and is not just a type of therapy or intervention for children.
Everyone around us is using the science of ABA whether they know it or not. Anyone who is initiating or responding to others or interacting with familiar environments is utilizing the principles of applied behavior analysis. We are always connected to and influenced by our environment and the contingencies within it. Your immediate environment shapes and maintains the behaviors you consistently emit through environmental consequences. These consequences can increase, decrease, maintain, or eliminate the value of certain behaviors.
Utilizing the science of ABA through direct behavior intervention is an efficient and effective way to systematically change and improve the behaviors of your children in a safe, ethical, and scientifically supported manner.
Applied behavior analysis is the science of teaching and learning. Parents who are trained to utilize ABA strategies and techniques are more confident in teaching their children new skills, more competent in handling problem behaviors, and more comfortable taking their children into different environments around other people. Having these skills as a parent increases confidence, decreases stress, and minimizes obstacles to the happy and healthy development of the child.
Parents who are trained in ABA can structure their home environment and routine in a way that optimizes child motivation, increases compliance, creates opportunities for learning and development, and enhances the likelihood of appropriate interactions with friends and family. ABA parents are focused on finding the good in their children’s behavior and consistently link positive behavior with positive consequences.
Parents utilizing ABA can teach their children more skills in less time. They use efficient instructional practices, take data on what they are doing, and make adjustments quickly so that they spend most of their time doing only what works for their child. Children of ABA parents find learning fun, interesting, and engaging. Most of the time, they cannot tell the difference between learning and playing with their parents.
With a focus on positive reinforcement, ABA parents can increase the enjoyment and efficiency of instruction so that children can increase their skills in areas such as social interactions, emotional and behavioral regulation, adaptive skills, self-care skills, academic skills, leisure skills, and appropriate play skills. When children have as many skills as possible, they are more likely to behave independently, have an increased level of confidence, and have fewer opportunities to have negative interactions with family and peers.
When problem behaviors arise, parents can use behavior reduction strategies that minimize the usefulness or necessity of problem behaviors and replace them with appropriate and functionally equivalent behaviors that are socially acceptable and more appropriate for multiple environments. By making problem behaviors less useful and less valuable, parents make these behaviors less likely to occur. In addition, emphasizing replacement behaviors equips the child with better skills that are more likely to be reinforced and maintained in other environments.
1. Detail oriented
Because of the unique way children with autism learn, it requires more of a systematic approach to teaching, breaking skills down one step at a time, or focusing on one aspect of communication at a time before moving on to the next and generalizing/increasing the repertoire of the child. ABA ensures this process happens and there are different ways it accomplishes this, like Task Analysis programs or Discrete Trial Training programs.
2. Customized, honed-in plans
Every child is different, and every child diagnosed with autism requires a different pace of learning as well as a use of different tools (teaching methods, reinforcement, time in therapy, etc.) to learn effectively. ABA is a great method of teaching kids with autism because of this fact. Each child’s individual plan is well thought out and it’s developed with that particular child in mind. You can be assured that your child will have a program that will target the behaviors or skills that need improvement and it will be addressed in a way that will be effective for them. The use of reinforcement or preferred activities or items in ABA is paramount. A strong reinforcer can be used for momentum in the teaching process as well as encouragement for a child struggling to complete a task given to them. Programs are developed and individual sessions are centered around these preferences.
3. Focus on social and communicative skills
A huge part of ABA therapy is its focus on social interactions and communication skills. A child with autism will typically have difficulty socializing with peers and also with communicating wants or needs. ABA is perfect for these deficiencies. As previously mentioned, ABA is a customizable form of treatment for your child, and that’s no different with the communication side of things. If your child is struggling with using words to communicate what they need and gets frustrated when attempting to get their point across, ABA therapy can address this. A good ABA therapist will try to evoke some sort of communication out of your child in every appropriate situation that may come up throughout a session, as well as teach different forms of communicating if your child is having trouble using words or language while the process of learning this skill is still ongoing.
4. Promotes and improves independence
A major concern with a lot of parents of children with autism is whether or not their child will be able to progress through life independently and without relying on instruction. While the answer to this is variable and completely depends on the child and their particular needs and skills, one thing that’s certain is that ABA will help to improve this independence. When teaching through these methods, therapists strive to get to a point of independence for the child with each individual skill being taught. This will ultimately lead to a more independent lifestyle for your child. With ABA therapy, each lesson and program is taught from the ground up and in a methodical way. This ensures that your child is truly grasping the skill being taught and will not have to rely on instruction to perform this skill after it’s mastered.
5. Meaningful learning
With ABA therapy, you can be confident your child will be learning things that will
fundamentally improve your child’s life. Applied behavioral analysis focuses on meaningful learning; your child’s needs will be the focused and their programs will be developed and modified throughout the process based on those specific needs. This draws back to the “honed-in” idea of ABA therapy. Programs aren’t blindly developed, they are developed with your child’s needs in mind. You can be confident that your child’s needs will be addressed with the therapeutic process.
6. Encourages parent and family participation
ABA therapy encourages you as parents, as well as others in your child’s life, to use the same strategies and methods as your child’s therapist(s). A good organization will promote parent teaching and training with these strategies as well as have scheduled parent meetings to go over your child’s programming. This will allow you to continue the teaching at home or in any other environment, taking the strategies your child’s therapist is using and applying it yourself. By embracing the consistency ABA preaches and implementing its strategies outside of therapy, you as a parent can take pride in your child’s development.
7. Use of motivation
Motivation is key when teaching children with autism. Some lessons may be less
preferred than others. In these cases, a child’s motivation for other preferred activities can be all it takes to effectively teach these more difficult skills. This is where reinforcement comes in. ABA therapy utilizes your child’s preferred play items or activities to maintain the learning momentum. A lot of times ABA programs will have these reinforcement items written into it, allowing the therapist to have options and the child to be comfortable knowing that their favorite toy is accessible.
8. Promotes creativity and fun during sessions
The learning and teaching environment should be fun and welcoming for both the therapist and your child. If this isn’t the case, the sessions will be a whole lot less effective. ABA therapy promotes creativity for the therapist, creating a fun environment for your child. If your child is having fun in a session, the learning will come that much easier, creating a sort of “flow.” This will again produce some learning momentum and the motivation of your child will continue to get stronger.
9. Data driven and adaptable teaching
ABA programs, again, are developed with your particular child in mind. The same can be said with how the programs and treatments are adapted as therapy progresses. Therapists are constantly taking data throughout sessions, sometimes changing the strategies on the fly during a session when necessary. The data taken throughout the sessions help influence these decisions and will provide evidence on why something is working or why something may not be working as well as originally hoped, leading to an adaptation in programming. Because of this, ABA programs can keep up with your child’s progress as well as adapt to ensure a lack of progress is addressed and reversed. In a sense, ABA therapy is a self-correcting practice.
10. Evidence-based and proven to be effective
ABA has been researched and developed for decades. Since the 1960s and 70s, ABA has been used in one form or another to treat and teach children with autism. Over time, methods have been put into practice and adapted based on evidence, proving that the strategies that are used are effective in treating the behavior excesses and deficiencies with those children who are diagnosed with autism.