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What is ABA Therapy?

woman holding hands discussing what aba therapy is

As we learn more about various mental disorders, more treatment options will become available. When it comes to autism spectrum disorder–also known simply as autism–there are several beneficial and vital services to choose from. These therapies are not always understood by those with the responsibility of making decisions about seeking appropriate care. Today, we take a look at Applied Behavior Analysis and what exactly this therapy is all about.

All About ABA Therapy

Applied Behavior Analysis, commonly called ABA therapy, is a fairly recent addition to the line up of autism related therapies. However, it has emerged as one of the best and most sought after treatments for autism and other behavioral issues facing children and young adults. ABA therapy owes all of its incredible breakthroughs to its founding father, B. F. Skinner, who pioneered research in psychology focused on one simple idea: behavior occurs because of something that happens either before or after it. These two events have been since labeled as antecedents and consequences, terms parents will quickly learn once beginning therapy and consultations.

  1. F Skinner studied the environments of his subjects, and came up with a theory that if you want to change behavior, alter the environment. In addition, he stressed that reinforcing correct behavior, and fading negative behavior will solve many complex situations regarding behavioral issues.

Today, ABA Therapy has evolved into a therapy focusing primarily on the science of behavior, with calculated and scientific philosophies. Typical ABA therapy employs the following methods and tools:

  • Reinforcement – This simply means rewarding specific, positive and wanted behavior with preferable consequences, which will guarantee the reoccurrence of these wanted behaviors
  • Shaping and Chaining – ABA does more than just stop problematic and potentially harmful behavior and encourage good behavior; it teaches new behavior! Teaching new behavior is such a critical component of ABA therapy because the disorder involves social and communication deficits and developmental delays, which can affect quality of life for the child and their family immensely. Shaping and chaining are methods used to gradually teach “missing” behaviors in a way that is scientific and evidence-based
  • Token Economies- Behavior analysts sometimes use token economies to help make reinforcement-based interventions more practical. In token economies, tokens are provided to individuals when they engage in appropriate behavior (for example, completing classwork) and then the tokens can be exchanged for a variety of different preferred items once a certain amount of tokens is earned. Token economies can be individualized for each individual’s unique needs and goals.
  • Measurement – For every intervention in ABA, measurement of behavior is crucial for success. Some types of measurement used in ABA are: rate, frequency, latency, topography, temporal locus, and duration. In addition to these methods, behavior analysts use special graphing procedures to illustrate data collected and use those representations to inform their decision-making

To close, ABA therapy is unique from other therapies offered to children with special needs, mainly because it is founded on a type of science and has philosophical underpinnings similar to many other sciences. To this extent, it is highly researched, evidence-based, and effective, which is what makes it in high demand among parents of autism spectrum children.

Stay tuned to this blog to learn more about the fascinating therapy, ABA!