Introduction to ABA Therapy
If your child has autism and you are looking for information about how you can help them gain valuable life skills, you might have already heard of ABA therapy. Standing for “applied behavior analysis”, ABA therapy is one of the most effective treatments for kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The idea behind ABA therapy is that an experienced therapist can teach students communication and coping skills, along with social skills to give them the best chance possible of living a stable life. This is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution, and progress depends upon the student’s unique needs, but ABA training has been found to improve memory and word variety, emotional understanding, healthy eye contact, and gross motor skills. It has even been shown to increase students’ chances of holding a job in the future.
One of the best things about ABA therapy is that professional therapists can also offer parents and families tips about creating a supportive at-home environment for positive reinforcement of new behaviors. It is a holistic approach designed to help students thrive at every level.
Types of ABA Therapy
ABA treatment is categorized into four main areas:
- Positive Behavioral and Support (PBS)
- Pivotal Response Training (PRT)
- Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI)
- Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT)
Each kind of ABA therapy method is used in different situations. The tactic your child’s therapist takes is dependent upon their unique challenges, emotions, and learning style. Some students receive multiple types of ABA therapy during their course of treatment, too, with educational programs that are individualized to improve chances of success.
Benefits of ABA Therapy
ABA therapy offers a wide variety of benefits for the healthy development of students’ conversational skills, social skills, attention span, and even their ability to focus.
More specifically, ABA therapy is crucial in teaching children on the spectrum independent living skills. These life skills, from the basic to the advanced, can be difficult for students to grasp, but therapy is often effective in setting goals and helping students achieve them. These skills include:
- Getting dressed
- Brushing hair and teeth
- Using the restroom
- Sleeping through the night
Therapists accomplish this by taking detailed notes on behavioral patterns, collecting data about the challenges unique to each student, and designing interventions to encourage ideal behavior. This teaching style also improves students’ ability to follow directions, which can help with the sustained learning process and future lessons.
ABA therapy can lead to improved parenting and enhanced family relationships, too. Continued therapy sessions offer child and parent alike the chance to learn to better communicate by deepening the parent’s understanding of their child’s behaviors and traits. ABA therapists often offer parents innovative solutions to parenting their child with ASD, too, making the parenting experience as easy and intuitive as possible.
ABA Therapy Techniques
ABA therapists use a few different therapy techniques. These all revolve around positive reinforcement, consequences, and antecedents.
Desirable behavior is reinforced using positive reinforcement. Therapists reward positive behavior in order to build positive connections around it and make incorporating it into the student’s life a bit easier. This reward can take multiple forms, with some therapists offering praise only and others offering something tangible like a toy or treat. The exact reward depends on the child in question and the program their board-certified therapist has developed.
Another ABA therapy technique involves the use of antecedents and consequences. Antecedents are triggers of a certain behavior. Think about students organizing their work to avoid overstimulating frustration later in the session. Failing to organize the papers leads to negative behavior and, in turn, consequences for that behavior.
It might help to consider this second technique the “ABC” technique:
- A: Antecedents lead to undesirable behavior (B).
- B: Undesirable behavior ultimately leads to consequences (C).
- C: Consequences from undesirable behavior.
Note that antecedents don’t always lead to negative consequences. Using the same example above, here is how the situation might have played out positively:
- A: Organizing papers helps your child stay focused later in the day.
- B: Your child organizes the papers.
- C: Your child avoids frustration and confusion later in the day.
ABA Therapy Activities for Children
There are a number of useful ABA therapy exercises for children. Just like in a traditional school, ABA therapy students are given an activity to help them learn a skill or behavior.
One popular activity is sorting by color. Students are tasked with sorting objects by color. This might sound like a rather simplistic task, but its benefits are anything but. This game teaches students to follow directions, identify colors, and label and identify each object.
Another ABA therapy activity for children is the emotion sorting game. This task is especially useful for students struggling with emotional regulation, and consists of students picking emotion cards in order to categorize them. The game consists of five cards, each with a face on it representing a different emotion: happy, sad, angry, shocked, and disgusted. Students must use these faces to correctly categorize different emotion words such as “crying”, “ew!”, “mad”, and “heartbroken”, among others. This makes it easier for students to identify their emotions and make smart choices to cope with them.
ABA Therapy Activities for Special Needs, Autism, and Behavior Modification
ABA therapists also have activities designed specifically for students with special needs. These include simple directions such as:
- Sit in the chair
- Match the colors
- Look at me
- Identify emotions
- Sort household items
You might recognize some of these from the previous section. That’s because they offer valuable opportunities for students at all levels to grow and learn new behaviors and skills. These exercises can be scaled up or down depending on the student’s needs.
ABA Therapy Activities for Sensory Processing
Learning through play and joy is an important addition to evidence-based ABA programs. Students learning sensory processing skills can take advantage of a variety of different activities:
- Pour stations
- Sensory walks
- Shape sorting
- Window painting (with non-toxic paint or shaving cream)
- Plastic bag kites
- Edible sensory bins
Are you ready to learn more about how ABA therapy can help your child? Reach out to our experienced team today for more information.