Applied Behavior Analysis therapy has been helping patients with autism since the early 1960s. However, the practices of ABA therapy were first applied to children that displayed negative behaviors in the early 1920s. In its early development, psychologists used rewards to encourage positive behavior and punishments to discourage negative behavior. The punishment portion is no longer part of ABA therapy, as punishment has been scientifically proven to cause more harm than good. Instead, therapists focus on rewards and positive reinforcement for socially acceptable behaviors, and they work on skill building with patients to help reduce negative behaviors.
ABA Therapy in Treating ADHD
ABA therapy has not only been proven to help patients with autism; it can actually be applied to many other neurodevelopment disorders, such as ADHD. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a neurodevelopment disorder that produces symptoms such as inattentiveness, carelessness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that are not developmentally appropriate or are disruptive to the patient’s life. ADHD can produce symptoms in patients as young as 2 years old. ABA therapy, in combination with some medications, produces the best outcomes for children with ADHD. Children with ADHD have shown decreased levels of impulsivity through ABA therapy and stimulant medication treatments.
How Does ABA Therapy Work with ADHD?
Children with ADHD can suffer from their symptoms. The severity of the symptoms ranges from mild to severe, and more severe symptoms can drastically reduce the quality of life of the child. Getting treatment early is one of the best ways to treat ADHD and prevent symptoms from worsening. ABA therapy is not a cure for ADHD, but it does teach children the skills they need to live a full life.
Some of the ABA techniques applied to ADHD treatment include:
- Positive Reinforcement
- Discrete Trial Training (DTT)
- Self-management Training
These three techniques help patients build life skills, like social skills, play skills, motor skills, impulse control, and much more.
Positive reinforcement encourages children to continue desired behaviors. In an example, a child practices turn-taking with the therapist. If the therapist asks for a turn with a toy that the child is playing with, and the child hands the toy over, the therapist will reward the child by saying, “That was such nice turn-taking! Thank you! Now, it’s your turn.” This will encourage the child to continue taking turns.
Now, if the child says no and continues to play, the therapist will start over and try the process again. The goal of ABA therapy is to teach children skills they need to control undesirable behaviors, not to punish them for behaviors they don’t know how to control.
Discrete Trial Training (DTT) involves breaking down complex behaviors into smaller, more manageable tasks. This technique of ABA therapy is like a ladder: You start with one simple task and gradually work your way up to the complex task. An example would be transitioning from one activity to another. Some children really struggle with transitions, so teaching them the skills they need to avoid a meltdown is important. Starting with a smaller task, like transitioning from playing with one toy to another, can help lead up to bigger tasks, like stopping playtime to get ready to leave home. DTT can greatly improve ADHD symptoms.
Self-management training is used primarily with older patients with ADHD and teaches self-awareness, as well as skills to improve self-praise and self-management of problematic behaviors.
Healthcare Provider's Role in ABA Therapy
A healthcare provider can be a valuable resource in ABA therapy. Healthcare providers can diagnose ADHD in young children and outline the treatment for ADHD. Treatment options may include medication, mental health therapy, and ABA therapy. Healthcare providers and parents can discuss the benefits of different treatment options, as well as why ABA therapy may be the better option. They can also give you a list of ABA therapy treatment centers in your area; some treatment centers accept insurance, as well.
Questions to Ask ABA Therapists
When you are looking for ABA therapy centers, there are a few things you should ask the therapists.
Does this therapist teach parents skills? The therapy center you choose should be trained to teach parents the tools they use in therapy sessions. Parents need to be able to work and communicate with their kids outside of therapy sessions. Some of the skills parents need to learn include positive reinforcement, structure, and consistent discipline strategies.
Does this therapist meet with the family regularly to monitor progress and provide support? The ABA therapy treatment center you choose should do regular meetings with the parents and child to assess the child’s progress. Therapists will work with parents to determine if the child is meeting their goals both during therapy sessions and outside of therapy sessions. They can also offer advice and emotional support.
What Should Parents Expect?
Parents can expect ABA therapy to last for several months, up to a year. Parents can attend some sessions and practice the ABA therapy tools, or they can watch the sessions from a private area where the child cannot see them. Therapists only have a set amount of time each session to work on these skills, so it is vital that parents also learn techniques to use at home. After all, parents are the greatest influence on their children’s behavior.
ABA Therapy in Texas
If you’re looking for ABA therapy in Katy, Texas, visit the Learning Continuum website today!