There are a lot of ideas and perceptions about Aba Therapy, and many prepackaged plans that ostensibly provide a family with an ABA program. It is critical to remember that there is no single program or plan that “is” ABA.
ABA Therapy, applied behavioral analysis, is simply the application of behavioral principles, to everyday situations, that will, over time, increase or decrease targeted behaviors. ABA has been used to help individuals acquire many different skills, such as language skills, self-help skills, and play skills; in addition, these principles can help to decrease maladaptive behaviors such as aggression, self-stimulatory behaviors, and self-injury. There are many providers of ABA services, many of whom are quite good. Frequently, a parent will choose a qualified provider with whom they share similar philosophical approaches in the application of intensive behavioral interventions.
This guide is provided to assist caregivers in their decision-making process.
Applied Behavior Analysis is the process of systematically applying interventions 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.
(1). ABA Therapy is a discipline that employs objective data to drive decision-making about an individual’s program. That is, data is collected on responses made by the individual to determine if progress is being made or not; if there is no progress under a particular intervention, we need to reevaluate the program and change it so that the child begins to make progress.
The short answer is: almost anything. If it is a behavior, and it can be observed, ABA principles exist that can be used to either increase or decrease that behavior. As a discipline, ABA Therapy providers are charged with the improvement of socially significant behaviors. Socially significant behaviors include communication, social skills, academics, reading and adaptive living skills such as gross and fine motor skills, toileting, dressing, eating, personal self-care, domestic skills, and work skills.
This commonly asked question has no single answer. Research supports, at a minimum, 25 hours per week of intensive behavioral intervention for young children diagnosed with autism for 12 months a year
(2). The original Lovaas studies showed that approximately half the children were able to achieve typical development with, on average, 40 hours per week over at least 2 years
(3). There is no single study that can inform a parent of the optimal number for their child. But, frankly, ABA, like breathing and eating, should be incorporated into a family’s lifestyle. This does not mean doing flashcards all day long, or sitting at a desk for every waking hour. It does mean that the family should learn Aba Therapy principles and how to apply them in the context of daily activities.
Parents are indispensable in the child’s program. They play a necessary and critical role. Studies show that children whose parents are actively engaged in the process make measurable gains (4). First, no one knows the child better than the parent; the parent’s provide critical and insightful information that will help guide the Aba Therapy program. Second, parents are able to continue to prompt and reinforce the child through his and her various daily activities – an essential component to generalizing skills. Finally, parents are in a position to be able to record and track ABC data in the home and community setting. This information is vital in hypothesizing the function (the “why”) of specific behaviors as well as for determining what conditions encourage behaviors to occur.
(1) Baer, Wolf & Risley, 1968; Sulzer-Azaroff & Mayer, 1991
(2) National Research Council (2001) Educating Children with Autism. Committee on Educational Interventions for Children with Autism. Catherine Lord and James P. McGee, eds. Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
(3) Lovaas, O.I. (1987) “Behavioral treatment and normal educational and intellectual functioning in young autistic children,” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55, 3-9
(4) Johnson, C.R., et al. 2007. “Development of a Parent Training Program for Children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders.” Behavioral Interventions 22(3):201-221
(6) Filipek, P.A., MD et al (2000), “Practice Parameter: Screening and Diagnosis of Autism.” Report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology and the Child Neurology Society.