Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is an effective approach for teaching a range of skills to children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Quality research shows that it has positive effects on the behaviour of children with ASD.
Behavior analysis helps us to understand:
- How behavior works
- How behavior is affected by the environment
- How learning takes place
ABA therapy programs can help:
- Increase language and communication skills
- Improve attention, focus, social skills, memory, and academics
- Decrease problem behaviors
The methods of behavior analysis have been used and studied for decades. They have helped many kinds of learners gain different skills – from healthier lifestyles to learning a new language. Therapists have used ABA to help children with autism and related developmental disorders since the 1960s.
How does ABA therapy work?
Applied Behavior Analysis involves many techniques for understanding and changing behavior. ABA is a flexible treatment:
- Can be adapted to meet the needs of each unique person
- Provided in many different locations – at home, at school, and in the community
- Teaches skills that are useful in everyday life
- Can involve one-to-one teaching or group instruction
Positive reinforcement is one of the main strategies used in ABA.
When a behavior is followed by something that is valued (a reward), a person is more likely to repeat that behavior. Over time, this encourages positive behavior change.
First, the therapist identifies a goal behavior. Each time the person uses the behavior or skill successfully, they get a reward. The reward is meaningful to the individual – examples include praise, a toy or book, watching a video, access to playground or other location, and more.
Positive rewards encourage the person to continue using the skill. Over time this leads to meaningful behavior change.
As with many approaches to autism, ABA is certainly worth a trial. Before getting started, however, be sure your child’s therapist is trained, know how and where she will be working with your child, and work with your therapist to set up measurable goals. Keep a close eye on the process and outcomes.
Most importantly, be aware of your child’s responses to the therapist and the therapy. Is she excited when she “gets to” work with her therapist? Is she responding to the therapist with smiles and engagement? Is she learning skills that are helping her in her daily life? If the answers are “yes,” you’re moving in the right direction. If not, it’s time to reassess.