ABA techniques for managing challenging behaviors

ABA Technique

One of the most effective tools when treating autism and helping children develop healthy behaviors and skills is applied behavior analysis (ABA). ABA is a scientific approach used to provide autistic people with the means to improve their situations. ABA-focused interventions, specifically, are widely used to address challenging behaviors that might be limiting the child’s development. From communication to learning and everything in between, ABA techniques for managing difficult behavior make a huge difference in people’s lives. 

Let’s look at some examples of therapy techniques designed to provide children with autism spectrum disorder the kind of attention necessary to change difficult behavior.

What are the key principles of ABA?

What are the Key Principle of ABA Technique

Before we look specifically at how ABA therapy techniques benefit individuals with widely different needs, let’s talk about the key principles of ABA. There are four main principles routinely used in ABA practice and therapy services:

  1. Behavior is directly impacted by the environment.
  2. Behavior is governed by its consequences and can be strengthened or weakened accordingly.
  3. Behavior changes more effectively with programs emphasizing positive rather than negative consequences.
  4. Behavior must be reinforced in order for socially significant change to take place.

ABA and the therapists that convey its principles hold that behavior is triggered by specific circumstances in a particular environment and that response is important in reinforcing or disclosing certain actions. A person experiencing at school, for example, will receive help tailored to the environment in question. Additionally, an ABA therapist focuses specifically on positive feedback rather than negative consequences. Change must be a positive, steady experience in order to make positive change without trauma. 

While these are not all of the principles of ABA therapy, they have the largest impact on patient or client outcomes. Now that you have some knowledge about what ABA therapists do and the principles under which they operate, we’ll dive into how behavior technicians (skilled therapists) can help children with autism manage their emotions and reduce problem behaviors.

Can ABA help with managing challenging behaviors in children?

ABA therapy can absolutely help with managing challenging behaviors in children. The strategies that ABA teachers and therapists use to help conduct effective interventions in problem behavior are designed specifically to allow people with autism the chance to develop healthy social behavior and life skills.

Through plenty of attention, reinforcement, patient teaching, and effective training, ABA professionals work with parents or caregivers to target behavior to change, develop appropriate rewards and consequences, and conduct routine assessments to measure a child’s progress as they learn through the program.

Effective ABA techniques for challenging behavior includes:

  • Visual modeling
  • Scripting
  • Positive and negative reinforcement
  • Prompting
  • Fading
  • Chaining

Of these, positive and negative reinforcement and prompting are some of the most well-known, but the others are equally as crucial to the process of teaching permanent progress. Regardless of whichever technique is utilized, it must be properly applied using the elements of successful ABA intervention programs below.

How can ABA techniques be used for challenging behaviors?

There are five main steps therapists using ABA therapy carry out to meet their patient’s main goal:

  1. Behavior assessment
  2. Decrease problem behavior
  3. Determine and utilize the appropriate reinforcement system to motivate change
  4. Teach individuals with autism replacement behaviors and improve functional communication
  5. Use specialized teaching strategies most suited to support the goals patients and their caregivers set

The first step here is the behavior assessment and initial intervention. At this point, therapists sit down with parents or caregivers of the child with autism and have a frank conversation about the challenging behaviors to be addressed. It is impossible to develop an effective treatment strategy without first looking through the eyes of both the child and their care provider to better understand the environments and behaviors involved. 

Once behavior technicians are able to determine the specific problem behaviors to be addressed, they start crafting the initial behavioral intervention. This includes securing the proper resources for families and loved ones to reinforce the work done in ABA sessions as well as the general teaching method to be used. Tools that can help children develop effective communication skills are also secured during this time.

The next step is to decrease problem behaviors. In general, decreasing problem behaviors refers to shaping the individual in question into a more independent, communicative person. Skill building through toy-focused activity in a variety of settings is one example of this. Therapists seek to take their students’ challenging behavior and form it into the social ability to interact within a community. With all of that said, this step is actually completed while working through the last three steps.

The third step regards selecting the ideal treatment technique to teach kids replacement behavior and communication skills. Using toys to help students learn to interact in a group, as mentioned above, is one example of an effective technique. In this step, professionals must consider potential anxiety and resistance their students might experience and plan accordingly. This is followed closely by teaching individuals with autism replacement behaviors using the methods selected in the previous step. This is done by praising and offering desirable rewards for replacement behavior and assessing the appropriate consequence and punishment for tantrums. 

By combining all of the above, ABA therapists use specialized teaching strategies most suited to support the goals patients and their caregivers set. This, in turn, leads to sustained progress and permanent benefits.

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