The Processes of ABA Therapy
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy has been the subject of many controversies. However, being the only scientifically proven mode of treating Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), it has not lost its significance. It is suggested that most of the bias against it is triggered because of an incomplete understanding of the method. To fight the fear of the unknown, the only weapons at hand are knowledge and comprehension. So, here’s a breakdown of the processes of ABA therapy:
Consultation and Assessment
The first stage in the ABA process is the functional behavior assessment (FBA). The therapist hereby notes down the child’s skills and abilities, so as to modify an autism treatment plan appropriate for the individual specificities.
The ABA therapist consults the child’s parents in inquiring about his/her strengths and deficits. They will also personally observe them, interacting with them to gauge their behavioral tendencies, communication challenges and abilities. They may additionally visit to supervise the child at home and at school, so as to note their mannerisms during day-to-day activities.
Consequently, the therapist would construct an intervention program in accordance with the child’s particular requirements.
Developing a Plan
After gathering the relevant information, the therapist is to formulate a blueprint for the therapy. They will decide what ABA technique and therapy route is best suited to the child’s particular needs and carefully deliberated treatment goals.
The objectives of the therapy are typically aimed at decreasing problem behaviors, for example tantrums and self-harm, and at enhancing helpful behaviors, like communication skills.
Parents may be asked to integrate some strategies into home life, as well. The program also includes specific strategies that can be employed by caregivers, therapists and teachers, so as to achieve outcomes of the treatment. This brings everyone in on the plan, establishing a team of sorts to help the children of determination improve in multiple dimensions.
Since ABA therapists involve non-therapists, or laymen, it is required that the latter receive proper training to aid the work carried out in therapy.
Not only do therapists train teachers, and parents and/or caregivers how to safely avoid the kinds of reinforcement that would be counter-productive or less effective; they also teach them about strategies that can build on the progress achieved during therapy.
Throughout the course of therapy, the ABA therapist keeps note of how those under treatment respond to certain aspects of the adapted plan. The therapist then modifies their approach, based on what helps improve and what is detrimental to the progress of the child. This way, the tactics of treatment are always being updated to cater to the betterment of the child.
Techniques of ABA Therapy
ABA therapy can utilize many a strategy to comprehend and alter behaviors. It is a flexible treatment, as it can be modified to fit each child’s individual needs and can be enacted in a number of locations, like in school or at home. It can also either use a one-on-one approach, or teaching through group instruction. Of the range of techniques involved in Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, the following are included:
After identifying a target behavior in the child, the therapist proceeds to reward that behavior. The most common ABA strategy, the purpose of reinforcement is to provide positive stimulus to encourage helpful behavior in the patient. Two of the major tactics of positive reinforcement are:
Token Economies: tokens or symbols are awarded to the child when they perform target behavior, which can in turn be exchanged to receive other sorts of reinforcement. For instance, if the child greets a relative, they could be given a certain number of tokens. When the child collects enough tokens, they can exchange them for a toy, for example.
Behavior Contracts: a formal written agreement with “if-then” statements to determine what target behaviors are desired for a child to be allowed to perform their own desired activities. This agreement can be carried out between the child of determination and their parents, caregivers, teachers and/or peers. This method can be used to counter persistent problem behaviors, increase useful mannerisms, to help with difficult emotions, or even when students of determination need to be motivated.
Discrete Trial Instruction
This methodology typically requires a one-on-one interaction between the child and the therapist. The latter initially gives the child brief, to-the-point instructions or simple questions to ease them into the process. The child is then given time to respond, though s/he may have the need for guidance or a prompt. These prompts are gradually taken away throughout the course of the therapy, as progress is exhibited. The child is rewarded with praises upon correct responds. The therapist may employ procedures guiding the child towards correct responses, so as to avoid responding incorrectly.
Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is useful for individuals with little to no verbal communication. The therapist presents their client with a picture of a desired item, for instance, a toy or a bright ball. The client would then be taught to exchange the picture for the actual object. The therapist gradually increases distance, motivating the child to exert more effort to acquire the picture in order to obtain the object they want. This eventually helps the child develop new communication and social interaction skills; with the use of pictures, and sometimes even words and sentences.
Making use of imitation skills, the therapist presents a model to the client, offering encouragement to copy a target behavior demonstrated by it. The model can either be the therapist themself, or someone in a video or audio file.
Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence
Also termed the “A-B-Cs”, this method can help understand the reason behind behaviors, and the effects of various consequences on the possibility of repeating behaviors. It plays on the interdependency of:
Antecedents: what happens before the target behavior is enacted. It can come from the environment, another person, or it can even be internal. It can also be either verbal, like a command or instruction, or physical, like an object or light or sound, etc.
Behavior: a person’s response, or lack thereof, to the antecedent. The resulting behavior can either be verbal, or in the form of an action.
Consequences: occurring directly after the behavior, it includes positive reinforcement for target behaviors, or no reaction to incorrect responses.
An Individualized Therapy
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is a scientifically supported treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder, with a plan adapted to each individual’s needs. ABA techniques suggest consistent updating to an individual’s therapy program, keeping up with their progress or lack thereof. It is why most autism therapy centers opt to include Applied Behavior Analysis as part of their inclusion programs, like Small Steps Big Dreams in Dubai, UAE. The most common treatment for autism, ABA therapy employs a variety of techniques to cater to a wide range of autistic characteristics, making it a more reliable form of therapy than most others.