Applied Behavior Analysis

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is an empirically based intervention for children and adults with autism as well as other behavioral issues. Research shows that through the use of ABA, desirable behaviors can be increased and undesirable behaviors can be decreased and replaced with appropriate behaviors.

ABA is the only treatment for autism and other special needs whose benefits have been consistently validated by independent scientific research. The research has shown that many children diagnosed with autism can learn enough with ABA to return to mainstream classrooms if they receive high quality, intensive, evidence-based interventions early enough. ABA is the most effective science-based treatment for autism. So you will want to get started right away.
ABA is short for Applied Behavioral Analysis, and it is often described as the “gold standard” for autism treatment. Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is a treatment based on behaviorist theories which, simply state that desired behaviors can be taught through a system of rewards and consequences. ABA can be thought of as applying behavioral principles to behavioral goals and carefully measuring the results.
While the idea of using rewards and consequences to teach behavior is probably as old as human civilization, the idea of carefully applying rewards and consequences to achieve specific, measurable goals is relatively new. While many people are strong advocates of ABA because of its demonstrable success in achieving specific outcomes.

What Can Children Learn Through ABA?
Most of the time, ABA is intended to “extinguish” undesirable behaviors and teach desired behaviors and skills. For example, ABA may be used to reduce outbursts and tantrums or to teach a child to sit quietly, use words to make requests, or wait their turn in the playground. ABA can also be used to teach simple and complex skills. For example, ABA can be used to reward a child for brushing his teeth correctly, or for sharing a toy with a friend.
While classic ABA can be used in a “natural” setting (a playground, for example), it is not intended to build emotional or social skills. So, for example, while ABA might teach a child to shake hands or greet another person with a handshake, it won’t help that child to feel an emotional connection with another person. It takes an extraordinary therapist to use ABA to teach academic content, imaginative or symbolic thinking, or empathy; as a result, those skills are usually taught in other ways.
How ABA Works

The most basic Lovaas method starts with “discrete trials” therapy. A discrete trial consists of a therapist asking a child for a particular behavior (for example, “Johnny, please pick up the spoon”). If the child complies, he is given a “reinforcer” or reward in the form of a food treat, a high five, or any other reward that means something to the child. If the child does not comply, he does not receive the reward, and the trial is repeated.
The specific content of discrete trials therapy is based on an evaluation of the individual child, his needs, and his abilities. So a child who is already capable of sorting shapes would not be asked to sort shapes indefinitely for rewards—but would focus on different, more challenging social and/or behavioral tasks.
The very youngest children (under age three) receive a modified form of ABA which is much closer to play therapy than to discrete trials. As they master behaviors, well-trained therapists will start to take children into real-world settings where they can generalize the behaviors they have learned and incorporate them into ordinary social experiences. ABA can also be used, in one of its many forms, with older children, teens, or even adults.
Discrete trials ABA is still in use in some settings, and for some children. Other forms of ABA, however, are becoming increasingly popular. In addition, rather than providing 1:1 therapy in a classroom or office, many therapists are now administering ABA in natural settings such as playgrounds, cafeterias, and community locations. This approach makes it easier for children to immediately use the skills they learn in a real-world situation.

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