Is ABA Therapy Only For Autism?

The Myth of ABA Therapy

ABA therapy has been used to treat patients with autism since the 1960s. It has been scientifically proven to help children and adults with autism learn skills they need to live an independent life. ABA therapy has been approved by the Surgeon General and the AAP as evidence-based treatment for autism. Many people believe the myth that ABA therapy is only used to treat autism. But is ABA therapy only for autism? Or can it be applied to other neurological disorders? This article will answer these questions and more!

What Can ABA Therapy Be Used For?

ABA therapy is not only used to treat autism. ABA therapy reflects how all human brains learn through positive and negative reinforcement. This means it can be applied to many behavioral and neurological disorders, such as:
  • Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
These disorders are all behavioral disorders, and patients with these disorders will benefit from ABA therapy.
Behavioral Therapy

ADHD Treatment

ABA therapy can be used to reduce the symptoms associated with ADHD, such as overactivity, impulsivity, or trouble focusing. Because ABA uses rewards and positive reinforcement for desired behavior, these methods can also be applied to patients with ADHD. Although ABA therapy is not scientifically proven to treat ADHD, it can help children with ADHD learn social skills like turn-taking and patience.

OCD Treatment

ABA therapy can help patients with OCD learn healthier coping skills for their compulsive actions. Patients with OCD tend to have distressing thoughts and perform repetitive behaviors to deal with those thoughts. Repetitive behaviors include turning a light on and off multiple times, closing and opening a door multiple times, lining shoes up a specific way, and much more. OCD typically is disruptive to normal life and can be damaging to some patients. Working with a qualified ABA therapist can reduce these behaviors.

ODD Treatment

Oppositional defiant disorder is a mental health disorder in children that is marked by persistent patterns of anger, defiance, irritability, and vindictiveness toward authority figures. Some of these feelings come up in patients with autism, so the two are sometimes confused. However, they are very different conditions. ABA therapy can help children with ODD learn to behave in healthier ways when they are angry. Rather than punishing the child for their anger or defiance, ABA therapists focus on praise, rewards, and positive reinforcement. Negative behaviors do not receive a reward.

What Behavior Analysis Teaches Us

Behavior analysis helps us to understand:

  • How behavior works
  • How behavior is affected by the environment
  • How learning takes place
Behavior has an antecedent and a consequence, and that consequence will shape behavior. If you want a reward, you have to behave a certain way to get it. This helps teach people with neurological disorders how to behave properly in any situation.

Some things in the environment can affect the way people behave. Excess loud noise can be a huge trigger for many people with neurological disorders, as well as bright, flashing lights and crowds of people. Simple things can cause undesirable behavior, as well, like going to a new place or leaving a place they enjoy. ABA therapy teaches patients coping skills for these situations and more.

ABA therapy has taught us how learning actually takes place. Many children learn best through play, as opposed to sitting at a table doing flashcards. Kids are better able to generalize skills learned through play and natural situations beyond therapy sessions. Many ABA centers offer field trips for their patients because it gets them interacting with the real world. Interacting with real people in real situations is one of the best ways the brain can learn. Most people that attend ABA therapy only require 10-20 hours per week, which gives them enough time to grasp and learn a new concept.

Skills Learned Through ABA Therapy

The main goal of ABa therapy is to teach patients the skills they need to live a full, independent life. ABA therapy programs can help:

  • Improve attention, focus, memory, and academics
  • Decrease undesirable behaviors

ABA therapy methods have been used for decades. ABA therapy did not start as a treatment for autism, but rather as a treatment for behavioral problems through rewards and punishments. Today’s ABA therapy does not involve the use of punishment, but focuses on positive reinforcement for desired behaviors. The practices of ABA therapy are not one-size-fits-all methods, but many patients have seen significant improvements with ABA therapy.

Applied Behavioral Analysis

Where Can I Find ABA Services?

There are many ways to find ABA services in your area. You can speak with your pediatrician or other medical provider about ABA therapy and if it would help your child. Most ABA therapy centers accept insurance, so your provider can provide you with a referral. You can ask your provider if they can recommend anyone in-network. You can also do a Google search to find ABA therapy centers in your area. If you live in the Katy, Texas area, Learning Continuum is an ABA center that offers therapy for children with autism. If you want to speak with the director to see if ABA therapy is right for your child, please visit our website and contact us today.

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