What is applied behavior analysis?
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is the application of the science of behaviorism to address challenges in everyday life. It uses what we know about learning to teach your child to navigate the world around them successfully. It is often used to address symptoms of autism spectrum disorder. It may help with increasing independence and communication, as well as reducing challenging behaviors.
Your child’s ABA services will be supervised by a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA). The BCBA will assess your child’s needs and work with you to come up with a plan. Once everyone has agreed on the plan, services will be delivered by a registered behavior technician (RBT) under the BCBA’s supervision, or the BCBA depending on the needs of the child.
What does a BCBA do?
To change a behavior, either to see more or less of it, the BCBA will look at what the payoff for the behavior is because we know that people repeat behaviors that have worked to achieve a desired result in the past. Once we know what the payoff, or function of the behavior is, the BCBA will come up with suggestions for other ways the child can meet the same need. For example, a child who hits his brother to get a toy could be taught to ask for it instead. The behavior therapist will use rewards or reinforcers that work for the child to encourage the child to behave appropriately. They will also work to make sure that the behaviors that we do not want them to do are rewarded less, or not at all if possible. Data will be collected to make sure the interventions are working.
How will ABA help my child?
ABA is an evidence-based treatment for people with autism spectrum disorder. During their sessions your child will work on learning the skills that they need to increase their independence. These skills can include activities of daily living, such as hand washing or toilet use, as well as communication, self-calming, and the skills needed to learn from instruction such as paying attention, following directions, and staying safe at home and school. ABA focuses on behaviors that you can see, or observable behavior.
The ultimate goal is to teach the child the skills that they need to become as independent and capable as possible. Together with your child’s behavior analytic team, you can help your child learn to navigate the world around them.
The first few sessions may look like the therapist is simply playing with your child. This is an important part of the process called pairing. Pairing is building a relationship with the child. The therapist wants the child to know that good things come from the therapist and other adults.
- Functional Communication Training
Children with ASD often struggle to make their needs known to those around them. These children may learn to get their needs met by behaving in ways that are not safe. Functional communication training breaks communication down and teaches them how to meet their needs more easily through communication.
ABA uses proven teaching techniques, including positive reinforcement and visual aids, to teach skills. Larger tasks are broken down into steps, individual steps are taught in order, building one upon the next until the whole skill has been mastered. These techniques can be applied to almost any skill.
Skills like taking turns, playing with others, and responding to social situations can be part of your child’s ABA program.
How often will my child receive services?
Depending on the needs of the individual, the child’s team will determine how many hours of services per week they will receive. Typically, children receive between 10-20 hours per week, but this will vary by individual. Initially services will be offered in the clinic, but we hope to offer home-based services soon. Talk to your child’s BCBA about determining the best fit for your family.