Applied Behavioral Analysis or ABA Therapy for Autism is a kind of therapy that can be used for a variety of conditions but is considered to be the gold-standard of treatment for kids with autism spectrum disorder as well as other developmental conditions.
The goal of this therapy is to improve communication, learning, and social skills by providing positive reinforcement.
Many parents and caregivers who have children with autism may not be aware of ABA therapy for Autism.
This overview provides how the therapy works and its benefits for children who have autism.
How ABA Therapy for Autism Works
Instead of using one approach, there are actually several phases.
This allows the therapy to be tailored to each specific child’s needs.
1. Consultation and Assessment
The first step in the process is consulting with a therapist who is trained in this type of therapy.
This consultation will include a functional behavioral assessment.
The therapist will also ask about the child’s abilities and strengths as well as challenging areas.
This professional will want to interact with the child and make an assessment of their behavior, communication, and skill level.
He or she may even want to visit the home and school to see how the child acts during daily activities.
After an assessment, the therapist will have a thorough overview of needs and develop a treatment plan.
Each ABA treatment looks different so don’t be surprised if it may not be the same from child to child.
2. Develop a Plan
The child’s therapist will develop a written plan for therapy that aligns with needs and also includes concrete goals for treatment.
The goals will vary but may include reducing problematic behaviors which may include tantrums and increasing communication skills or other abilities.
The treatment plan will also include specific strategies that caregivers, schools, and the therapist will use to achieve those goals.
There are several models used for interventions.
For example, the early intensive behavioral intervention is recommended for children under the age of five.
This intervention involves a curriculum that teaches communication, functional, and social interaction skills.
3. Caregiver Training
Once the therapist and caregivers have agreed upon the intervention plan, then the therapist will train caregivers and teachers on how to continue this therapy daily.
They’ll review strategies that help reinforce the work done in therapy.
They’ll also train how to avoid reinforcements that may be less effective such as giving into child tantrums.
4. Frequent Evaluation
Since the ABA therapist is trying to find the cause of certain behaviors, the approach used may change over time.
Each child will respond differently which will then change the intervention or possibly keep it the same.
Throughout the treatment, the therapist will monitor progress and review which strategies are working well and where there may need to be adjustments.
Goal of ABA Therapy
ABA therapy may last for years and can continue as long as the child is showing improvement.
However, the goals of this treatment are often helping children open up and increasing their communication skills.
It may also help children to ask for what they want clearly and have more focus on a daily basis.
Since children with autism can have self-harming behaviors or tantrums, ABA may focus on reducing these behaviors as well.
The Costs of ABA therapy
The costs of this therapy vary depending on the program and the program that provides the therapy.
ABA programs which have more services tend to also come with a higher cost.
The therapists may work with clients for 10-20 hours a week.
Additionally, many children show noticeable improvement over a few months.
However, this therapy can last up to three years.
For caregivers who are concerned with the expense, most don’t have to pay out-of-pocket.
Insurance plans will often cover the cost.
Some schools will also fund ABA therapy for a child although they may require that they complete do their own evaluation initially.
Considering ABA Therapy
ABA therapy has benefited children living with autism and improved their overall well-being over time.
It’s one of many treatments for autism and may not be effective for every child but is a well-known and respected therapy.
Anyone who has a child with autism and behavioral challenges may want to consider reaching out to an ABA trained therapist for an evaluation to see if this is a reasonable therapy for them.