ABA Therapy


What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy?


ABA Therapy is a form of treatment for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that is widely accepted by healthcare professionals. ABA works by combining what we know about the science of learning and behavior analysis to create highly-individualized treatment plans that help children and adults with ASD learn new skills and improve desirable behaviors while decreasing harmful behaviors or those that have a negative impact on learning or daily function.

Positive reinforcement is the cornerstone of ABA Therapy; desirable behaviors are rewarded and reinforced, while undesirable behaviors are ignored. Therapists work with specially-trained behavior analysts (BCBAs) to identify goal behaviors for an individual with ASD. These behaviors could include anything from developing social and communication skills to mastering basic life skills necessary for self-care. Over the years, several studies have shown that ABA Therapy is effective and has positive effects on intellectual functioning, language development, daily living skills acquisition, and social functioning, with the larger effect sizes observed on language-related outcomes.

By consistently following a structured ABA treatment plan and focusing on small steps and milestones to gradually build toward larger goals, therapists, parents, teachers, and caretakers can work together to help shape a child with ASD's actions and encourage them in developing positive, healthy behaviors and life skills.

How is an ABA treatment plan developed?


The most important thing about a successful ABA treatment plan is that it's highly-individualized to meet the unique needs of each child. With this in mind, the Intercare Therapy team begins with a thorough evaluation that includes direct observation and standardized assessments.

In developing an ABA treatment plan, the team identifies your child's strengths and weaknesses across developmental milestones and five specific domains:

  • Challenging behaviors
  • Socialization
  • Communication
  • Independent living skills
  • Community integration

When the evaluation is complete, the team develops a program that fits the needs of you and your child, working with you to identify and prioritize goals and define how to measure your child's progress toward each goal. Parents, teachers, and caregivers play a pivotal role in the success of ABA therapy and receive training and support to help implement the treatment plan and guide the child toward success.

How is ABA implemented?


ABA Therapy focuses on identifying behavioral triggers and highlighting the consequences of both positive and problematic behaviors for a child with ASD to encourage positive behaviors. An easy way to remember the basic steps of ABA therapy is to follow the ABCSs:

  • A: Antecedent: Think of the antecedent as the trigger; it's the situation, item, or action that's presence directly before a target behavior. This can include verbal requests, the presence of a specific toy, or something environmental, like a light or sound.
  • B: Behavior: This is the behavior being targeted by ABA Therapy. It could be a positive behavior that the treatment team is looking to reinforce or an inappropriate or harmful behavior that the team is working to adjust.
  • C: Consequence: In terms of ABA Therapy, the consequence is what comes directly after the behavior. For a desired behavior, the consequence should provide positive reinforcement, while a harmful or inappropriate behavior should be followed by no reaction--never punishment or forced correction.

The ABC framework helps treatment teams understand why a behavior is happening and how different consequences can affect future behavior.

Another important element of implementing ABA Therapy is to break larger goals down into small steps and only advancing to a new step once the current skill or goal is mastered. Throughout their ABA treatment, children receive an abundance of positive reinforcement for desired behaviors while undesired behaviors are redirected or ignored. Consistent reinforcement is essential to helping children with ASD learn and to motivate them to continue mastering new skills.

While ABA therapy involves direct work with therapists and BCBAs, one of the things that makes the treatment so successful is how flexible it is. The principles of ABA Therapy can (and should) be applied at home and at school as well as during sessions with the ABA provider. If you have questions about ABA Therapy or you'd like to arrange a consultation, call the Intercare Therapy office nearest you or fill out the contact form online.



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