Applied behavior analysis is commonly referred to as ABA therapy. ABA is a scientific approach based on learning and behavior specifically used to aid children with Autism.
Goals of ABA therapy include:
- Increased communication
- Increased focus
- Decrease in problem behaviors
- Increased social skills
How ABA Therapy Works
ABA therapy begins with observing the child and their behavior by the clinician. Certain behaviors are pin-pointed for extra work. Those behaviors are then further analyzed, determining the reason for the behavior and the cause. Once these factors have been determined a program begins to reduce or change the behavior.
ABA and Our Family
ABA therapy is more than therapy for one child in your family. This therapy involves every family member and caregiver for your child. Often as parents we learn new skills to help support the programs now running. Therapy takes place in the home, center, public places, or on family outings. We are familiar with our behavior technician after a year of therapy. She enters our house much like a family member and often we plan outings together.
Each setting provides the technician an opportunity to work on different skills. For instance, my child was terrible at starting conversations with strangers, so we searched for opportunities for him to interact with new peers. Soon his random approaches became more systematic beginning with, “Hi, my name is Marcus. Today is my first day in this art studio. What is your name?”
Having mastered the skill of introductions, now he introduces himself at every opportunity. This uncovers a new issue, and now we are teaching him who to introduce himself to or more importantly, who not to. In conversation, we typically refer to this as teaching him “stranger danger.”
ABA goals are defined for your child’s unique situation. In our case, the goals I have expressed to our ABA therapist are as follows:
- Proper approaches to peers.
- Learn how to engage in a meaningful conversation with a peer or adult.
- Stop repetitive speech and stories (perseverance).
- Understand “stranger danger” and reduce oversharing.
- Take “NO” for an answer.
The process isn’t obvious overnight, slow and often times unnoticed changes occur. For instance, after a year of therapy we were in the doctor’s office for a well-child visit when a resident he didn’t know came in. Marcus greeted his regular doctor with a smile, then turned to the resident, extended his hand, and proceeded with the introduction script we’ve been working on. At that point, I saw the full ramifications of everything he has been working on. I couldn’t stop smiling. The first major evidence the programs are working.
He is also getting better at his “self talk”. When he uses “self talk” he reviews both sides of a conversation that happened, word for word himself. Often he does this repetitively and while I’m making dinner. Over the course of the last months, I no longer notice this self talk occurring. I’m uncertain if it’s that he is taking it to a more private place or if he is working his way through these social situations with more confidence due to his therapy.
ABA at School
Marcus’ school is open to participating in the programs we carry out in the home. His therapist has been able to review his participation and struggles within the classroom to further develop the total picture of his current social skills. Both his general education teacher and the special education teacher review findings with the therapist and readily accept any tips to aid him in social situations at school. This helps his consistency and will help further his progress.
Sources on ABA Therapy
If you are interested in further information on ABA therapy, I recommend the following websites.
YouTube video on Autism and ABA