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The Basics Of ABA For Autism: 5 Things You Need To Know

Understanding how to treat Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be as overwhelming as understanding the condition itself. The fact is, no two cases of ASD are the same, so no two treatment plans will be the same, either.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is commonly used to treat ASD. ABA for autism gives therapists and caregivers numerous avenues to help children learn to function healthily and responsibly in real-life situations.

Recognized by the U.S. Surgeon General and the American Psychological Association, ABA applies theories of behavior and learning to the treatment environment, helping children with ASD learn how to increase behaviors that are helpful and decrease harmful behaviors. As a result, these children are better equipped to learn, communicate and grow.

Understanding ABA For Autism

If you’re a parent who’s just beginning to learn about ABA, it might seem a bit confusing. Here are five things you need to know.

1. ABA for Autism Isn’t “One Size Fits All”

Several different therapies are rooted in ABA principles. Therapies include discrete trial training, natural environment training, pivotal response training and more. Regardless of the type of therapy used, when therapists use ABA for autism, they can measure children’s progress with hard data and see clearly what therapies are working and what therapies are not.

ABA can help improve children’s communication skills, sharpen focus and attention, develop social skills and more. Its multifaceted, fully customizable approach allows therapists to be creative and adjust to the needs of the child, which increases the possibility of bringing about meaningful and positive change.

2. Progress Is Measured Over Time

When a child with ASD first begins an ABA treatment plan, his or her therapist will identify individual goals. Therapists typically begin with simple, manageable goals, and then move onto more complex goals.

As the treatment plan progresses, therapists record specific data, which they share with other staff as well as with caregivers.

At Sarah Dooley Center for Autism, for example, therapists meet multiple times each week to discuss children’s progress. This data shows them how well the child is progressing, and how and when adjustments need to be made to the treatment plan.

Consistently monitoring children’s progress is a key factor in ABA’s success. As their needs fluctuate, so too must their treatment.

3. Learning Happens Outside The Classroom, Too

Although caregivers may bring their children to a special school for autism, it’s important to know that a lot of learning occurs outside of the classroom as well. This is a crucial part of the ABA philosophy.

Going out into the “real world,” like the library, the playground or a restaurant gives children the chance to transfer skills learned in the classroom to real life. This is what’s known as “generalization.” Children can perform a task or engage in an activity, with the support of their therapist, and practice succeeding in their newly acquired skills.

Parents will also be aware of the skills children are learning in the classroom, and they should help children generalize those skills at home, too. With time and practice, children will be able to generalize these skills independently.

4. ABA Isn’t About Punishment

Boiled down, ABA rewards desired behaviors and gives consequences for undesired behaviors. Some people misunderstand what “consequences” means in this context.

It’s especially important to understand that ABA for autism is not about punishing children with autism when they demonstrate undesired behavior. This system of rewards and consequences aims to promote appropriate and cooperative behaviors and decrease harmful and detrimental behaviors.

ABA therapists often use positive reinforcement to reward desired behaviors, but consequences might simply be the withholding of that positive reinforcement or reward. Learning within the ABA environment is characteristically positive and enjoyable, helping children want to learn and grow.

5. Parents Drive ABA Home

Parental involvement in ABA therapy is critical to its success. Sharing insight on behaviors, triggers, responses, preferences, and tendencies will enable your child’s therapist to make a sound initial assessment and guide adjustments to the treatment plan thereafter.

Parents have a great opportunity to help their kids generalize skills learned in the classroom at home, too. Although therapists expose children to real-world situations in which they must apply their skills, parents should also take the chance to give their children the same opportunities.

Many ABA therapy programs will offer regular sessions for parents, during which they train parents to support their children’s learning and skills maintenance at home.

Learning About ABA For Autism

When it comes to ABA for autism, there’s a lot to learn. Thankfully, there is a wealth of information out there to support caregivers’ endeavors to help their children.

If you are searching for support for your child’s experience with autism, consider these useful resources: