What Is ABA Therapy and How Does It Work? Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Can Significantly Unlock Your Child’s Potential
Accompanying a child with autism can be personally enriching as well as a fine balancing act and this is particularly true for parents juggling both demanding working and family lives. The good news is, thanks to scientific research and with it, an overall better understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), families today are offered an array of therapy choices to help their child excel in life and improve their overall well-being. One of the most sought-after therapy methods receiving positive resonance from both parents and health care professionals alike- is ABA therapy. Really only gaining prominence 50 years ago, Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), is anchored in the firm belief that through practice- based techniques and easily applied day-to-day situations, your child’s positive behaviors can be encouraged and built on while unwanted or problem behaviors can be reduced. Parents typically seek help when they feel that they have tried everything under the sun, from buying How-to books promising miracles, to trying out unsuccessful therapy sessions by so called autism experts. When parents and caregivers finally do turn to ABA therapy, one of the first sessions should take place with a qualified therapist who will take time to understand the underlying difficulties faced by your child. During this encounter, parents will typically outline behavioral issues such as excessive anger outbursts, refusal to eat or dress, or describe how they helplessly watch as their child becomes increasingly withdrawn, refusing all social contact. There is no “one-size fits all” ABA program Recognizing the uniqueness of every child implies that no therapy will be identical but is specially customized to best suit your child’s goals. After assessing a patient, your therapist will put together a therapy plan, for both school and home, typically addressing problem areas like communication, social and motor skills as well as self-care issues. One of ABA therapy’s hallmarks is to teach a child with special needs, new skills and adapt behavior through positive reinforcement. Did you know, that during problematic behavior, your child is in fact trying to communicate to you? This is the starting point, the precious clue in understanding the context of the problem before proposing concrete and powerful ABA tools which are then consistently applied. Through detective work, your therapist will propose modifying an aspect in your child’s environment in a way that will directly influence the behavior in a positive way. A child who throws a tantrum during bath time, may do so, if you look closer, because of sensorial issues. If this possibility is confirmed through deduction, your therapist will for example, suggest practical solutions such as avoiding the use of the shower head, because of the impact the noise has on your child. Additional strategies such as directly involving your child, respecting its own rhythm during bath time, followed by a tempting compensation like extra “story-telling” time before bedtime, will help reinforce the whole bathing experience in a positive manner. Today, regardless of age and level of functioning, ABA stands out as one of the most effective treatment options out there. As with everything, once your treatment choice is made, finding a certified ABA therapist with a proven track record is essential. Parents also need to come on board fully, willing to consistently apply the ABA techniques before seeing real improvements over time.