ABA Therapy: Is it Right for Your Autistic Child?

As an effective, evidence-based intervention for treating Autism, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy offers much hope for parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ABA focuses on behavioral improvements through a number of different techniques and interventions. The applications of ABA are customizable to the needs of every individual associated with ASD.

How Does ABA Therapy Work?

Applied Behavior Analysis therapy helps children with Autism behave in a more neurotypical manner and assimilate better in society. It involves positive reinforcement techniques that support numerous aspects:

  • Enhancing On-task Behaviors: By teaching new life skills, communication skills and social skills that improve the individual’s reasoning, social interactions, and verbal and motor abilities.

  • Reducing Interfering Behaviors: By addressing repetitive actions, restricted range of interests, negative or destructive behaviors through a modified and supportive learning environment.

  • Improving Consistency of Positive Behaviors: By coaching the individual on self-monitoring and self-control techniques. This is especially useful while trying to accomplish specific tasks, such as academics-related or job-related.

History of ABA Therapy

While ABA therapy was in use since the 1950s and 60s, Dr. Ole Ivar Lovaas, also known as the grandfather of ABA, published the first prominent ABA therapy study in the 1980s. Combining ABA applications, such as Discrete Trial Training (DTT) and Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI), Dr. Lovaas provided a 14-month long, 40-hours a week therapy to non-verbal, institutionalized children with Autism. This involved an extremely structured and intense approach of behavior modifications, including rewards for good behaviors and severe punishment for unwanted behaviors. About 47% of the tested group successfully caught up to their peers and were even able to overcome Autism. However, over the years, the intensity of the program and the punitive actions for unwanted behaviors came under a lot of scrutiny. Today, ABA techniques keep up with the present times and focus on a reward-based, positive reinforcement approach.

Styles and Variations in ABA Therapy

Certified ABA therapists can use a combination of techniques and interventions, based on the basic principles of applied behavior analysis. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, ABA therapy allows for customizations, based on the unique needs of the individuals with ASD and their families.

  • Discrete Trial Training (DTT): In this structured approach, ABA therapists break down each task into simple, easy-to-adapt steps until the individual with ASD can complete the task in its entirety. The focus here is on repetition and incidental teaching.

  • Early Start Denver Model (ESDM): This is primarily a play-based method that aims to teach multiple skills within one exercise.

  • Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT): This play-based technique focuses on teaching critical social skills, such as sitting still, speaking quietly, playing nicely, and more.

  • Incidental Training: This training builds and strengthens skills in real-life environments, while also helping families or caregivers in maintaining a consistent therapy-based approach at home.

Several other behavioral interventions or programs also apply the principles of ABA. This includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Functional Communication Training (FCT), and Early Intensive Behavioral Interventions (EIBI) amongst others. When used correctly and with the right combination of techniques, ABA therapy can:

  • Help individuals with Autism develop the necessary skills for leading a productive, independent life.

  • Help families and caregivers of individuals with Autism apply the therapy techniques in real-life environments.

What Does ABA Therapy NOT Address?

Years of extensive research on Autism has led to a better understanding of some of the challenging behaviors, such as repetitive motions, self-injury, aggression, or meltdowns. Often these conditions stem from pain, discomfort or other medical issues, which an individual with ASD may not be able to communicate effectively. It is important to understand that ABA therapy cannot address the underlying medical issues; they need a proper diagnosis and treatment by a healthcare professional. However, as a supportive intervention, ABA therapy can help individuals with ASD and their families lead a balanced lifestyle. In fact, early interventions of ABA can improve communication skills of non-verbal individuals, which in turn enables them to better express any pain or discomfort.

At Autism and Behavior Spectrum (AB Spectrum), our goal is to bring about meaningful and long-lasting changes that improve the quality of life for children with ASD, as well as their families. Our qualified ABA therapists design a tailor-made approach to help your child build the skills and behaviors that make them independent in all areas of life. Our focus is on:

  • Teaching self-care tasks and critical life skills that promote independence

  • Improving memory and attention for better academic results

  • Strengthening language and communication for improved social interactions

  • Reducing problem behaviors and increasing consistency of desirable behaviors

Here are some of the highlights of our ABA therapy offerings:

  • Our team of ABA therapists consists of qualified Board-Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) and Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs).

  • We primarily follow the Reggio Emilia ABA therapy approach that follows the philosophy of Natural Environment Training (NET). Our experienced therapists also use a combination of other ABA techniques and programs, as applicable. We employ only positive reinforcement techniques.

  • We pay attention to the program structure, as well as session lengths while customizing the ABA therapy for your child. The objective is to ensure that the sessions are interesting and engaging based on each child’s needs and interests.

  • Our therapists encourage parents and caregivers to observe and learn from the sessions, and apply ABA techniques in day-to-day interactions and situations that go beyond the formal therapy.

  • We offer in-home ABA therapy, clinic-based ABA therapy, or a combination of both. Our programs and services cater to families in the St. Louis area with locations in St. Charles, and Chesterfield, Missouri.

Do you have more questions or concerns about Autism treatment with ABA therapy? Get in touch with the experts at AB Spectrum. Call us at 314.648.2687 or book a free consultation today. If you are concerned that your child is showing signs of ASD, check out our free online Autism screening questionnaire.