There’s no known cure for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but there are treatments that can help people with autism manage and eventually improve their symptoms. One of the most effective known treatments for ASD is applied behavior analysis (ABA), which is what our experts and specialists offer here at Intercare. Here’s everything you need to know about ABA for autism.
ABA autism therapy uses our understanding of behavior to increase positive, helpful behaviors and decrease negative or harmful behaviors.
Applied behavior analysis can help people with ASD improve their language, social, and communication skills as well as attention, focus, and memory. The therapy can also help decrease behavior problems and improve academic performance.
ASD is described as a spectrum because of the wide variety of ways in which it presents. Part of what makes ABA such a popular and effective treatment for autism is its flexibility. Not only can ABA be adapted to meet the needs of individual patients, it can also be provided in many different locations, from home to school and even out in the community. Furthermore, ABA autism therapy can be applied in one-on-one teaching environments or in group therapy sessions.
There are different types of ABA, including:
Discrete Trial Training (DTT) — a system that uses a series of trials to teach each step of a desired behavior by breaking lessons down into their simplest parts and using positive reinforcement to reward correct behaviors while incorrect behaviors are ignored.
Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) — A kind of ABA specifically used with children younger than five. Pivotal Response Training (PRT) — a training technique that focuses on achieving positive behavior changes by encouraging a child with ASD to monitor their own behavior and initiate communication with others. Verbal Behavior Intervention (VBI) — a type of ABA focused specifically on teaching verbal skills.
One of the things that makes ABA autism therapy so effective is its focus on positive reinforcement. In ABA, the administering therapist sets a behavior goal for the patient and rewards them every time they successfully complete the goal behavior to encourage repeated use of the skill in question. Over time, this repetition leads to true behavioral change.
In addition to ASD, ABA therapy can be used to treat other conditions, including substance abuse and misuse, dementia, cognitive impairment after brain injury, eating disorders, anxiety, panic disorder, OCD, phobias, anger issues and borderline personality disorder.
When seeking ABA therapy, look for programs run by a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA) and registered behavior technician (RBT). BCBAs are extremely well-vetted, with master’s degrees or PhDs in psychology or behavior analysis. These professionals are also required to pass a national certification exam and, in some states, to obtain a license to practice. RBTs (also known as behavioral therapists, line therapists, and behavior techs) are therapists trained and supervised by BCBAs who work directly with autistic patients to work toward the therapeutic goals outlined by the BCBA.
Both the US Surgeon General and the American Psychological Association consider ABA to be an evidence-based best practice treatment. In plain English, this means that the treatment has been scientifically proven to be effective. In fact, more than 20 studies have established that long-term use of intensive ABA-based therapy (specifically programs involving 25-40 hours of therapy a week for a duration of 1-3 years) can improve outcomes for many—but not all—children with ASD. Studies of ABA’s effectiveness with adult patients found similar results.