The current behavioral therapies for autism and their different approaches

Behavioral Therapies for Autism

Introduction to Behavioral Autism Therapies

People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can often benefit from time with experienced therapists. Behavior management therapy is designed to help reinforce desirable behaviors and reduce those that are less desirable. And while nothing is ever foolproof, sometimes behavior therapy can help individuals with autism take a stronger part in their community. This kind of therapy can also be used to help caregivers and families create a safe, calm environment that emphasizes wanted behaviors for their loved ones.

Behavioral therapy oftentimes has applied behavior analysis (ABA) as its foundation. ABA is a therapeutic technique that has been shown to help people with autism, both one-on-one as well as in a group setting, develop better communication skills. Behavioral autism therapy can support treatments and interventions and even help people with special needs develop skills for potential careers and jobs. ABA can also be included in many different environments, including schools, public centers, and private centers focusing on group and individual care.

Types of Behavioral Autism Therapies

There are four main kinds of ABA treatment strategies. These include:

  • Positive Behavioral and Support (PBS)
  • Pivotal Response Training (PRT)
  • Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI)
  • Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT)

Each of these therapies has its own techniques and benefits. Not all of them are the best approach for all people living with autism, but many of them are common parts of quality programs designed to help give individuals with autism the tools they need to thrive as they age.

Benefits of Behavioral Autism Therapies

Behavioral Autism Therapies

The benefits of ABA therapy are varied. Most experts agree that, when used properly by behavior technicians, it can significantly affect treatment outcomes in a positive way and help patients’ lives improve in quality. This kind of therapy can also offer parents and other loved ones feedback about their caregiving approach and educate them on communicating with people with autism.

Challenges of Behavioral Autism Therapies

There are many challenges to behavioral autism therapies. First, not every approach is the right approach for everyone. Everyone is different, and different approaches can have different levels of effectiveness and work in different areas of life. Sometimes the question is less about the specific kind of autism but rather about the behavioral technician and their interactions with the individual in question. Professionals who understand autism will understand how to give their patients motivation and support rather than frustration. 

Other challenges include teaching social skills and the ability to carry on a conversation. This is critical because it allows patients to broaden their social connections, but it can be difficult to effectively teach. Keeping the patients’ focus and attention is also difficult, especially in longer sessions or in a more intensive center environment.

Who Can Benefit from Behavioral Autism Therapies

Behavioral autism therapies can be effective at different stages of life, but beginning in childhood offers the best chance at positive outcomes. A skilled care team and behavior technician can work with children to meet goals, create opportunities for growth, and improve functioning. 

Adults and teens can also benefit from ABA, although the latter is more likely to achieve noticeable results than the former. The difference between adults and children is their ability to change. As we get older, it becomes more difficult to change our principles and improve our understanding of communication, community, and collaboration. Adults and teens can often benefit from center-administered behavioral autism therapy, but their outcomes might not be as pronounced.

Preparing for Behavioral Autism Therapies

Waiting to start behavior therapy can be anxiety-inducing. There are some steps you can take to make the process easier and more productive. First, familiarize yourself with behavioral therapy. Learn about how it can help kids and improve sustained learning throughout life. Take a look at the variety of ABA techniques and which type might be most helpful, too. You can also assess your child’s beginning skills and work with your family to create a supportive environment before your child becomes an “official” student.

Finding a Behavioral Autism Therapist

Finding a behavioral autism therapist can be challenging. There are many people who want help, but relatively few providers and teachers to offer it. This creates a disproportionate number of potential students to professionals. The best way to secure a quality education for your child or loved one is to visit the BACB website. Standing for “Behavior Analyst Certification Board”, the BACB forums can help you locate teachers near you.

Hold out for a professional who is willing to answer your questions and set up an interview to meet you and your child.

Cost of Behavioral Autism Therapies

Unfortunately, ABA therapy is often expensive. Prices can reach up to $120 per hour, if not higher. The good news is that it is possible to find affordable care if you give it time. Reach out to other parents and even check with your doctor for advice. Reach out to your insurance company, too, if you have it, and see what they cover.

Insurance Coverage for Behavioral Autism Therapies

Many insurance carriers offer support for ASD and ABA in the United States. There is sometimes a $50,000 annual maximum benefit, however, so it is important to reach out to providers for a breakdown of what you can expect them to pay.


Frequently Asked Question on Behavioral Autism
  1. What is the evidence that behavioral autism therapies are effective?

There is quite a bit of evidence that behavioral autism therapies work. A recent study of the literature by Srinivas Medavarapu lists quite a bit of the research surrounding ASD and ABA treatments.

  1. What are the key components of behavioral autism therapies?

Some of the key components of behavioral autism therapy include:

  • Task analysis
  • Chaining
  • Prompting
  • Prompt Fading
  • Shaping

Through the above components, behavioral psychology professionals try to teach children with ASD how to analyze something and determine the steps needed to complete the task at hand, as well as to prompt students to learn and master new skills.

  1. How are behavioral autism therapies individualized for each child?

The individual is the primary focus of ABA-based interventions. Professionals review the patients’ reactions to certain techniques during each session and adjust their approach to better suit their learning model and examples. That is why the implementation and design of behavioral autism therapies must be done by a professional behavioral technician who has built their career around the science of ABA therapy.

  1. How do behavioral autism therapies address the core symptoms of autism?

Behavioral autism therapies help students recognize their feelings and understand their own behaviors. Students also learn how their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors affect each other as well as how to participate in a community. In many cases, the outcomes of behavioral autism therapies allow students to build social communication skills that will help them later in life.

  1. How do behavioral autism therapies teach new skills and behaviors?

At its core, behavioral autism therapy works by encouraging “good” behavior and minimizing “bad” behavior. The idea is that, over time, the negative behaviors begin to fade as the positive behaviors gain more purchase in everyday life.

  1. How do behavioral autism therapies help children generalize skills to new situations?

Behavioral autism therapies help children generalize skills to new situations by carefully exposing them to a variety of situations and teaching them what skills to utilize and why. Over time, children will be able to instinctively pull out their “toolbox” in unfamiliar situations.

  1. How do behavioral autism therapies address problem behaviors?

Behavioral autism therapies have two different ways to handle negative behavior. The first is proactive intervention, and the second is reactive intervention. Proactive interventions seek to intervene and avoid problem behavior as much as possible. Think about how you organize throughout the day to avoid frustrations later. Proactive interventions teach students tools like that which can be used to avoid frustration before it occurs.

Reactive interventions occur after the behavior has already happened. Reactive interventions help people with ASD interrupt negative behavior before it becomes out of control.

  1. What is the role of caregivers in behavioral autism therapy?

Caregivers often increase intervention intensity by using treatment strategies throughout the day. This helps reinforce the tools and skills children learn during their sessions.


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