Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) By: Akshata Shetty Clinical Psychologist

What is Applied Behaviour Analysis?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the process of systematically applying interventions which is based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree, and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behavior.

ABA provides a structure for looking at human behaviors, what causes them and how to make them increase or decrease. It also provides a basic structure for teaching new skills (behaviors we want to increase). The basic information you need to know regarding the teaching procedures include: shaping, prompting, fading, chaining and differential reinforcement.

Who will benefit from ABA therapy sessions?

Individuals with the following disorders will benefit from ABA therapy:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries
  • Developmental Disabilities
  • Alzheimer’s and Dementia
  • Problem Behaviours
  • Tantrums
  • Physical Aggression Self Injurious Behaviors
  • Noncompliance
What are steps for getting ABA program started?
  • Diagnostic Assessment:
    A diagnostic assessment provides information related to your child’s diagnosis. A good psychologist will be able to differentiate your child’s diagnosis from autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and the related diagnosis of social communication disorder (SCD), as they appear in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Diagnostic assessments should be conducted initially and then again each year.
  • Developmental Assessment:
    Developmental assessments provide information about how your child is developing in all areas compared to peers his or her own age. These assessments measure cognition, communication, motor, adaptive and social skills.
  • Domain Specific Assessment:
    Specialized assessments are available for each area of development. For example, a number of assessments exist for the sole purpose of assessing language development. Subsequent assessment must then be completed in order to determine the nature and extent of the delay. You may find it beneficial to consult with specialists to assist you in meeting your child’s needs within each domain.

Finally, the parents will need to find a qualified provider of ABA services who would conduct sessions for their child and at the same time teach them strategies that would help increase the positive behaviours and reduce negative or maladaptive behaviours.

What are the methods of ABA therapy to support children with special needs?

ABA methods are used to support children with special needs in the following ways:

  • To increase positive behaviors (e.g., reinforcement procedures increase on-task behavior, or social interactions);
  • To teach new skills (e.g., systematic instruction and reinforcement procedures teach functional life skills, communication skills, or social skills);
  • To maintain behaviors (e.g., teaching self control and self-monitoring procedures to maintain and generalize job-related social skills);
  • To generalize or to transfer behavior from one situation or response to another (e.g., from completing assignments in the resource room to performing as well in the mainstream classroom);
  • To restrict or narrow conditions under which interfering behaviors occur (e.g., modifying the learning environment); and
  • To reduce interfering behaviors (e.g., self injury or stereotypy).

ABA focuses on the reliable measurement and objective evaluation of observable behavior.

How often should the child undergo therapy?

ABA therapy consists of intensive programming that is tailored to cater to the individuals needs, the level of disability and also depends on the individual skill level. The amount of therapy would be determined by the qualified professional however the expected range of hours would typically range from 10 to 40 hours.

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