Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a type of therapeutic treatment option designed to help children and adults alike change their behavior in positive ways. The most well-known application of ABA therapy is helping people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) improve their language and social skills, as well as to boost their communication ability and behaviors at school and with their families. It is also used to help students with PTSD, ADHD, and even OCD and ODD, among others, develop effective methods of dealing with their symptoms. ABA is perhaps most effective early in life, but it can be used to help people of any age.
Is ABA therapy helpful?
ABA therapy is an incredibly effective strategy in certain situations. It isn’t the right choice for every concern, but when it works, it works very well. ABA therapy is one of the most effective intervention and treatment strategies to help a nonverbal child, or a child struggling with social skills and social interaction, develop the foundational skills to make permanent changes to problem behaviors.
More specifically, ABA uses positive reinforcement rewards to reinforce goal behavior rather than punishments. This allows children to learn via play without fear of getting in trouble and is sometimes referred to as a “response treatment”. ABA is essentially training students with disorders in varying degrees of severity to completely renovate the way they perceive the world around them.
These same techniques are applied when ABA is used to treat a mental health disorder or other neurodiversity issue, too. The focus on positive engagement and improvement over negative reactions to problem behaviors makes ABA therapy an excellent choice to help with a wide variety of concerns.
How does ABA therapy work?
ABA therapy is among the most flexible interventions in practice. The program is highly customizable and can be adapted by a skilled teacher to suit individual student needs. In fact, one of the approach’s biggest strengths lies in its ability to shift from targeting one problem behavior to the next by simply altering the treatment plan slightly.
ABA’s success primarily stems from its ability to change undesirable problem behavior by rewarding ideal reactions rather than punishing less-than-ideal interactions. Therapy sessions typically consist of trained therapists identifying the student’s strengths and building treatments revolving around their interests and play style. Through this highly tailored approach, kids and adults alike are often able to address issues such as self-injury and tantrums, along with other self-destructive and violent behavior. Students can learn verbal communication skills, too. All of this, in turn, gives them the skills they need to thrive in real-world situations. Improvements are celebrated and progress is emphasized with praise and reward.
With all of that said, how effective is ABA therapy?
How effective is ABA therapy?
The exact effectivity of ABA therapy largely depends on which study you read. However, it is impossible to deny that it produces very successful outcomes in many of its patients. In fact, over the past forty years, it has remained one of the therapies most widely used in cases of “difficult” behavior. We’ll take a look at some of the most common and widely cited studies and evidence regarding ABA’s success rate.
In 1987, Dr. O. Ivar Lovass, one of the pioneers in the field of ABA therapy, wrote that 90% of the children he saw improved “substantially” after intense ABA therapy sessions. Of that 90%, a further 47% progressed to the point of being all but indistinguishable from their peers. Someone without direct knowledge of the child’s behavioral struggles wouldn’t be able to tell that the kid in question ever had behavioral or communication issues. Dr. Lovass used this success rate to highlight the effectiveness of using the therapy as a means of helping youth develop real-world skills and build healthy connections.
In 2005, another study exploring the principles of ABA therapy and how they positively impact children was published. Known as “Intensive Behavioral Treatment for Children with Autism: Four-Year Outcome and Predictors”, the study found that ABA therapy techniques were effective in improving learning ability and high functioning skills in children fast. Nearly 50% of the children studied made “rapid improvements” in their learning ability and were able to function in traditional education classrooms with traditional teachers.
The Surgeon General of the United States has also commented on ABA therapy and the difference it makes in the lives of its students. They remarked that after more than 30 years of research, the benefits of applied behavioral methods in behavioral, emotional, and social development were clear.
What does all of this mean for your loved one and ABA therapy? These techniques are most effective when applied to children with autism spectrum disorders, but they can be used to treat other issues such as PTSD and ADHD, among others. ABA is a highly effective therapy that can be used to improve socialization skills, verbal communication ability, and emotional regulation, and lead to permanent behavior change that lasts throughout the student’s life.
Are you interested in learning more about the opportunities ABA therapy has to offer your child? Or perhaps you’d simply like help finding access to a network of skilled caregivers and professionals in the industry. Start by reaching out to your primary care provider and asking for recommendations. From there, you can expand your search. And don’t worry – you’re sure to find the U.S. professional best suited for your needs.