Raising a child with autism is challenging for any parent. No one is expecting that their child will be the one to face autism, and many are caught unprepared.
Fortunately, autism is a significant research area of interest, and experts have developed various specialized therapeutic methods to support children with autism. These provide support through learning techniques to facilitate social, emotional, and developmental growth.
One such method is applied behavioral analysis or ABA therapy. It involves a unique approach for each child with autism to identify the causes of their behavior and to apply the necessary interventions.
Overall, many experts consider ABA therapy the gold standard for supporting children with autism. This article will give you more information on ABA, how to get started and what to expect.
Applied behavioral analysis is a therapeutic method developed based on extensive research on the causes and consequences of autism. It also relies on numerous studies on the behavior of children with autism and how they communicate, interact and respond to sensory information. Overall, most experts agree that methods based on ABA principles can significantly improve language and communication skills, attention, and problem behavior.
One of the primary principles of ABA therapy is the understanding that no child with autism is the same and requires a unique approach. Rather than crafting a conventional method for treating autism, ABA therapy studies each child’s behavior, ways of communication, and interaction. It studies excesses and deficits in behavior to create relevant interventions based on the findings.
There are several structured types of ABA-based therapies involving different strategies and goals. One such method is discrete trial learning. It includes mastering both simple and advanced skills through a series of repetitions.
Another method is incidental teaching. The therapist uses the environment and naturally occurring opportunities to facilitate generalization.
Similarly, the other three methods – verbal behavior, language learning paradigm, and pivotal response training, adopt different strategies to promote the child’s growth in various aspects.
ABA therapy prides itself on the recommendations from many health professionals and autism experts for enhancing the overall quality of life of children with autism. Nonetheless, sometimes it also faces criticism from both parents and professionals.
Statistics never lie, and they show that methods based on ABA principles can significantly improve the behavior, communication, and social skills of most children with autism. Many studies demonstrate that they reduce the severity of their overall autism diagnosis.
Several studies also show that ABA therapy could improve the verbal and non-verbal IQ of children with autism.
A significant part of ABA therapy is teaching and guiding parents and caregivers of children with autism. They are taught ways to reinforce desired behavior and attempt to suppress or minimize tantrums, aggression, or other outbursts.
Each child’s parents are their primary source of energy, guidance, and support. Getting introduced to treatment strategies can significantly enhance their growth and overall quality of life.
From brushing their teeth or tying their shoes to drawing and calculating, ABA therapy can help your child acquire new skills and discover their talents. Professional therapists collect and analyze data collected from observing your child and propose the best possible interventions to help them develop skills.
Children with autism can often be considered strange by their peers for the way they act and communicate. ABA therapy can significantly improve social skills by teaching them to maintain eye contact, share toys, start conversations and respond accordingly. Helping your child make friends will vastly improve their quality of life and enable them to enjoy their childhood to the fullest.
Getting started with ABA involves several phases to craft the best possible treatment tailored toward your child’s unique needs.
While you can also participate in your child’s training once you get introduced to the principles, ABA therapy starts with a consultation with a professional therapist. That is called functional behavior assessment (FBA), during which the therapist will attempt to identify your child’s challenges, strengths, and abilities.
A well-performed FBA is the first and most crucial step of ABA. The therapist will spend time with your child privately and among family and peers. They may also visit their school to observe how they communicate and interact with others to craft the most appropriate treatment strategies.
Once the therapist has thoroughly assessed your child, they will use the collected information to plan interventions and craft adequate treatment goals. These can involve all or any of the five ABA-based therapies. They will help them address excesses and deficits in their behavior and communication and develop desirable skills. They may emphasize specific interventions more than others based on your child’s needs.
The selected goals are focused on facilitating social and emotional growth, developing skills, and enhancing their overall quality of life.
You will have complete knowledge of the therapist’s plans and goals and can take active participation in the interventions. What happens outside of therapy is crucial. The therapist will instruct you or a caregiver to reinforce desired behaviors and suppress unwanted ones, such as head-banging, biting, or hitting.
The active participation of the whole family in your child’s growth and development is invaluable. The therapist will help you identify their strengths and talents, so you can enroll them in courses, activities, or sports that they are interested in and excel in. Swimming, horseback riding, and cooperative team sports, such as football and basketball, can be great options for children with ASD.
Another crucial aspect of ABA therapy is frequent evaluation of your child’s behavior, communication, and skill development. The therapist will continuously monitor your child and adapt their strategies according to the results. They will analyze which interventions work well and where they might need refining.
Frequent team meetings between the family, therapist, and caregivers to discuss progress and overall response to therapy is essential.
The end goals of therapy depend on each child’s unique needs, skills, performance, and progress. Overall, ABA therapy is a highly effective therapy for children with autism by providing various improvements in behavior and communication.
You may notice your child showing more interest in people, communicating more effectively, and focusing better on tasks at home and school. Detrimental behavior, such as head-banging, aggression, tantrums, or other outbursts, can be reduced or stopped completely.
Support and care for people with autism does not end with ABA therapy, but it will enable most of them to lead a more active, social, and fulfilling life.