What is ABA Therapy?

ABA Therapy

Snapshot: ABA is a systematic approach to treating the symptoms of autism while increasing communication and decreasing maladaptive behaviors. It focuses on the fact that not being able to communicate is frustrating and kids will act out as a result. Hundreds of studies have demonstrated that ABA therapy can improve communication, social relationships, play skills, and self-care for children with autism. The techniques are also vital for helping children do well in school and even in employment situations.

ABA Therapy

When researchers compare ABA with other early intervention or special education programs designed for children with autism, results consistently show that children who receive ABA treatment make greater improvements in more skill areas than children who participate in other interventions. Perhaps even more important, many parents of the children receiving ABA report a significant reduction in daily stress compared with parents of the children receiving other treatments.

Let’s dig deeper into what ABA Therapy is and why it’s so effective in helping children with autism lead happy, healthy lives.

What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Behavior analysis is an evidence based approach to understanding individual behavior and how environmental influences affect it. The approach is founded on the idea that we can learn a lot about what’s happening inside a child (or an adult) by investigating what the child does – their actions, words, and skills. Behavior analysis also recognizes that no one lives in a bubble; therefore, if we are to understand someone’s behavior, we must also examine the physical and social influencers that might change or be changed by that behavior.

Behavior analysis primarily focuses on explaining how learning takes place. One example is the principle of positive reinforcement, which simply asserts that rewarding behavior is likely to encourage a person to repeat it. Learning is a complicated and intricate process with countless variables. Through understanding the many intricacies of how learning takes place, we can develop principles and techniques for increasing positive behavior and reducing harmful and destructive behavior.

As the name suggests, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the application of these principles.

ABA is a systematic approach to treating the symptoms of autism while increasing communication.

More than simply seeking to understand why a child does what they do, ABA is a practical approach that has been proven to help a diverse range of children acquire many important skills like making healthy self-care choices, working well with others, or pursuing an interest, while decreasing maladaptive behaviors such as throwing a tantrum, crying, hitting, screaming, etc.

ABA focuses on the fact that not being able to communicate is frustrating and kids will act out as a result.

“Imagine a pendulum, with communication skills on the right and maladaptive behavior on the left. If you increase a child’s ability to communicate, the pendulum swings to the right. Communication goes up and maladaptive behaviors goes down. When the child feels they can’t communicate, the pendulum swings to the left. Maladaptive behavior goes up and communication goes down.” – Crystal Ciszek, Regional Supervisor for Cornerstones

ABA is one of the most effective treatments for autism in part because of how easy its principles can be applied in both structured environments, such as a classroom, and in day-to-day life, such as trips to the grocery store, play dates with neighborhood friends, or getting along with siblings.

ABA therapy is tremendously effective in nurturing the development of basic life and social skills. Children learn to look at people who are speaking to them, notice things in their environment, listen to others, and imitating behavior, just to name a few. ABA therapy is also effective at helping children develop complex cognitive skills such as reading, holding a conversation, and even understanding other people’s perspectives.

The Research Behind ABA and Autism

ABA Therapy

Hundreds of studies have demonstrated that ABA therapy can improve communication, social relationships, play skills, and self-care for children with autism. The techniques are also vital for helping children do well in school and even in employment situations. Much of this research can be found through the links on our Resource Page, and include age groups ranging from preschoolers to adults. In all cases, whether focused on children or adults, results consistently show that ABA is a powerful method for directing positive behavior and increasing participation in family and community activities.

Some studies compare ABA with other early intervention or special education programs designed for children with autism. Results consistently show that children who receive ABA treatment make greater improvements in more skill areas than children who participate in other interventions. Perhaps even more important, many parents of the children receiving ABA report a significant reduction in daily stress compared with parents of the children receiving other treatments.

ABA programs, including the programs you’ll find at Cornerstones, create room for children to learn new skills and then put them into practice in both structured and unstructured situations.

Aside from all the clinical studies, our work with children at Cornerstones demonstrates how effective ABA therapy is. Every day we watch as the children we work with experience significant improvements in learning, communication, reasoning, and their ability to adapt to the environment.

“When we started, our client was pretty much nonverbal. Now, he is able to label random items, request things they want and say a variety of words clearly!! Yareli {his Cornerstones therapist} has made the naturalistic teaching setting very fun and has made so many opportunities to run the programs in different ways using his motivation as a motive to learn. She really demonstrates great clinical skills! I just wanted to give her a huge shout out because our little client is excelling so fast!”

What Does ABA Therapy Involve?

ABA treatment is not a one-size-fits-all textbook like approach to the treatment of autism. There is no instruction sheet to follow or checklist to mark. On the contrary, one of the things that makes it so effective is that the intervention is customized to each child’s abilities, interests, situation, and needs. An ABA program for one child will look different than a program for another.

That said, at Cornerstones, we’ve developed a process and a handful of assessment tools that provide structure and consistency. We begin the process with a consultation before scheduling an initial contact in your home setting. This is the perfect way to analyze the child’s needs, abilities, academic performance, medical treatments, allergies, and parental concerns.

The child is then matched with a Board Certified Analyst who further explores the child’s behavior and ability level, using a variety of advanced assessment tools to perform an extensive analysis.

What kind of progress can be expected from ABA therapy?

In most cases, small, but meaningful changes in several areas will be apparent soon after consistent ABA therapy begins. However, it’s important to understand that ABA therapy is an integrative, long-term approach involving intensive ongoing instruction from which progress is built on progress. The rate of progress also varies from child to child, as do the goals of the therapy itself. All children are different and should be treated as such.

It’s also important to understand that when a child receives a prescription for ABA Therapy, the prescription isn’t any different from a prescription for medication – the child is meant to use it all. For example, if your child’s doctor prescribes 10 days of antibiotics but the child only takes them for 7, results will vary. The same is true for ABA treatment. If the prescription is for 25 hours a week of treatment, and the family opts to only use 10, results will vary.

Perhaps the most vital element in the effectiveness of ABA treatment is the therapist. For ABA therapy to be successful, it should be designed and delivered by a qualified professional with supervised experience. Every therapist at Cornerstones is Board Certified and/or a Registered Behavior Technician. Our therapists are the lifeblood of our organization and their competence is the reason we’ve grown 10-fold over the past few years.

If you have a child with autism and are wondering if ABA therapy might be a useful component to their development, please give us a call. We welcome all your questions, comments, and suggestions.

For more information and resources related to autism, please visit the Cornerstones Resource Page.

 

In HomeABA Therapy

Are you looking for ABA services for your child in the comfort of your home? Are you looking for less stress in your life? Cornerstones Autism Services can help.

click to call