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applied behavior analysis therapy


What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy?

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is based on the science of learning and behavior. It is a type of intensive therapy that focuses on the principles and techniques of learning theory to help improve social, communication and learning skills in a child through reinforcement strategies. ABA therapy applies our understanding of how behavior works to real situations. The goal is to increase behaviors that are helpful and decrease behaviors that are harmful or affect learning.

How long is the duration of therapy?

For most children with autism, ABA is recommended as a long-term, intensive treatment program. The length of time that a child will spend receiving ABA therapy depends on many factors such as age of the child, the diagnosis and behaviors to be changed, insurance coverage, etc. There is not a set time frame that the analyst can state with certainty. But the literature recommends that a child should receive between 25- 40 hours per week of ABA therapy to see the best outcomes

How does ABA help?

ABA therapy helps in developing new skills; shape and refine previously learned skills and decrease socially significant problem behaviors. Therapists have used ABA to help children with autism and related developmental disorders since the 1960s. ABA therapy helps children on the autism spectrum by:

  1. Increasing their social abilities like completing tasks, communicating, and learning new skills
  2. Implementing maintenance behaviors like self-control and self-regulation
  3. Teaching them to transfer learned behaviors to new environments
  4. Modifying the learning environment to challenge them in certain scenarios
  5. Reducing negative behaviors like self-harm

What can I expect from ABA therapy?

ABA involves several phases, allowing for an approach that’s tailored to your child’s specific needs.

  • Consultation – First you will want to consult with a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) trained in ABA. This consultation is called a functional behavior assessment (FBA). BCBA will spend time interacting with your child to make observations about their behavior, communication level, and skills. They might also visit your home and your child’s school to observe your child’s behavior during typical daily activities. They will also conduct parent interview to ask about your child’s strengths and abilities as well as things that challenge them.
  • Developing a plan – The second phase is to use the observations from the initial consultation to create a formal plan for therapy. This plan should align with your child’s unique needs and include concrete treatment goals. The plan will also include specific strategies caregivers, teachers, and the therapist can use to achieve treatment goals. This helps to keep everyone who works with your child on the same page.
  • Caregiver training – ABA also relies on parents and caregivers to help reinforce desired behaviors outside of therapy. Your child’s therapist will teach you and your child’s teachers about strategies that will help to reinforce the work they do in therapy.
  • Frequent evaluation – Over the course of therapy, your child’s therapist may adapt their approach based on how your child responds to certain interventions. As long as your child continues treatment, their therapist will continue to monitor their progress and analyze which strategies are working and where your child may benefit from different treatment tactics.

Which mental health disorders does ABA help with?

Many experts consider ABA to be the gold-standard treatment for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or other developmental conditions. But it is sometimes used in the treatment of other conditions as well, including: 

  1. Substance use disorder
  2. Dementia
  3. Cognitive impairment after brain injury
  4. Eating disorders
  5. Anxiety and related conditions such as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and phobia
  6. Anger issues
  7. Borderline personality disorder

How to get the most of therapy?

  • Be open and honest with your Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). When starting ABA therapy, it is important to help the BCBA get to know your child’s medical and behavioral history. Don’t try to hide or downplay any negative behaviors that will need to be addressed in therapy.
  • Communicate with key support people and be consistent. Talk to your BCBA and ABA therapist and consistently implement your child’s Behavior Support Plan at home. Also, ensure that your child’s teachers practice Behavior Support Plan in school as well.
  • Don’t allow your child to engage in their highest motivating activities right before an ABA session. This may lead to problem behaviors and tantrums. Also you can ask your BCBA and ABA therapist if there are any changes you can make to improve sessions.
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