What is ABA?
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the process of systematically applying evidence-based interventions to teaching strategies and behavior modification to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree. The intent of ABA programming is to increase skills in language, functional play, daily living skills, academics, fine and gross motor skills, and socialization, while simultaneously decreasing behaviors that interfere with learning these skills. Simply put, ABA is the science of applying behavior methods to help improve behaviors, as well as the overall quality of life, of children with Autistic Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, PDD-NOS, Down Syndrome and other special needs.
ABA is widely recognized as the single most effective treatment for children with autism spectrum disorders and the only treatment shown to lead to substantial, lasting improvements in the lives of individuals with autism. In fact, ABA has been endorsed as an effective intervention for autism by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Academy of Sciences, and the United States Surgeon General.
Most children with autism who participate in intensive ABA therapy will show significant improvements in IQ, language skills, and academic performance. Some children will move successfully to mainstream public school classes, where they can learn alongside typically developing peers. More importantly, every child can benefit from ABA interventions by learning new skills and reducing problem behaviors.
ABA Services are appropriate for children engaging in behavior that…
- Endangers the child, family members, or other people
- Damages the child’s surroundings or personal property
- Disrupts family, school, or community activities
- Interferes with the child’s development of new skills
- Restricts social contact or participation in integrated settings
How ABA Works
Simplifies learning. All tasks, whether simple (such as learning to wave or clap), or complex skills (such as having a conversation) are broken down into a series of small steps that are easier to learn. Each step is taught by giving children the opportunity to practice over and over again until the child masters the skill and can use it in everyday life.
Motivates the child. Therapists identify activities that the child really likes and uses these activities as positive reinforcement to motivate the child during teaching interactions. Rewards, also known as "reinforcers" can include things such as snacks, hugs, spins in the air or playing with a preferred toy.
Maximizes success. The child is given a lot of help and guidance when first learning a new skill. This often involves the therapist using her hands to guide the child, or prompting the child with examples of what the child should do or say. Ultimately, the child learns to do it successfully all by himself.
Practices to mastery. ABA therapy focuses on creating many practice opportunities during teaching sessions and throughout the child’s day so that he can learn the new skill.
Measures progress. By recording a child’s progress, therapists have a road map that tells them what to continue working on and where to go next. It’s also a great road map for you. You can see just how far your child has progressed.
Extends skills to the real world. Skills are taught in such a way that the child can use them in everyday life. This is the most important step to making sure the skill is really learned and can be used in the real world.
Teaches parents to apply interventions. Parents are an essential part of an ABA treatment program. You are taught how to teach important skills and how to manage behavior both at home and in the community. With an ABA program you will be empowered to teach your child and to address his challenging behavior.
Focuses on reducing and replacing challenging behavior. In ABA-based therapy, therapists, caregivers and parents work together to identify challenging behaviors, assess them to determine why a child is behaving that way and develop structured plans to reduce the behavior. Often, a problem behavior is caused by a lack of a specific skill such as communication. ABA works toward identifying ways to replace challenging behavior with more adaptive skills such as using language to communicate.