As more children are being diagnosed with autism, there are more and more parents who need to quickly get up to speed on ABA therapy. If you’re one of those parents, this guide was created for you!
In this first part of our 4-part guide, you’ll learn the basics about:
- What ABA therapy is
- How it works
- Why it’s important to start early
- Where to find a provider you can trust
It’s our sincere hope you find this information useful, easy to digest, and reassuring that you’re not alone on this journey. So let’s dive in.
ABA therapy is the standard of care for giving children with autism the ability to flourish and reach their full potential.
ABA therapy ranks at the top of the list of autism treatments, because it’s proven (in research and in practice over several decades) to benefit all the essential areas of a child’s development, from communication and language to social and academic skills. Today, ABA therapy is so widely used and recommended that most major health insurance plans cover it.
ABA is short for Applied Behavior Analysis.
As you might guess from the name, ABA therapy is based on Behavior Analysis, the science that seeks to understand a person’s behavior and what influences it. Extensive data is collected during each therapy session with a child to understand and measure their progress as well as modify the therapy itself for the best results.
ABA therapy is a scientific approach to finding connections between a child’s actions and their environment.
During ABA therapy sessions, therapists playfully interact with a child to observe and analyze a their behaviors and the situations in which they occur to pinpoint what’s influencing their behaviors and the child’s ability to learn – for better or worse.
ABA therapy works by changing the environment that is present before as well as after a behavior occurs.
Knowing how a child’s physical and social surroundings affect their behavior is the first step to changing the environment in a way that enables learning to take place and desired behaviors to occur. Changes made to the environment before a behavior are called antecedents. Changes afterwards are known as consequences.
ABA therapists use different techniques and principles of learning to change a child’s environment.
These include things like:
- Positive reinforcement, for example, a treat after the behavior of finishing homework
- Differential reinforcement, which is reinforcing one behavior and withholding reinforcement for another
- Shaping to teach a new behavior, where small approximations of the new behavior are reinforced and gradually built upon until the new behavior is learned and independently performed.
The goal of ABA therapy is to bring about meaningful improvement in socially significant behaviors.
Socially significant behaviors include any skill or behavior that makes a positive impact on a child’s life or their relationships with others. For example, daily activities like brushing your teeth, getting dressed, and cleaning your room are socially significant behaviors, as are showing appropriate behaviors in social situations, like eating at a restaurant or participating in a classroom with other students.
ABA therapy can benefit children as young as 2 with lasting results.
A major key to success for children with autism and their families is starting ABA therapy early. Children as young as 2 years old can benefit from ABA therapy, and extensive research has shown the earlier children start, the better and long-lasting the results are.
To find the best ABA therapy provider(s) in your area, look for the gold BHCOE® badge.
BHCOE or Behavioral Health Center of Excellence is a sign of high-quality ABA therapy services that have been independently accredited to meet or exceed professional benchmarks for performance as well as continuous improvement. You can learn more about BHCOE here.
The Behavior Exchange is proud to be a Behavioral Health Center of Excellence with the highest accreditation possible.
We have beautifully fun centers in Texas (Plano, Frisco, Prosper) and Colorado (serving the Boulder area). Click here to learn more and get started. We can help your child and family grow together through expert ABA therapy.
Lastly, be sure to watch this space next week for Part 2 of our Parent’s Guide to ABA Therapy Basics!