“Do not fear people with autism; embrace them. Do not spite people with autism; unite them. Do not deny people with autism; accept them, for then their abilities will shine.” – Quote by Paul Issacs.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is considered the gold standard intervention for people with Autism by many experts and has become increasingly popular in the ASD community. Accordingly, a lot of information and misinformation about ABA has been circulating, particularly on the internet. The proliferation of misleading, unfounded and outright fallacious “information” has, unfortunately, brought about doubts about the therapy, its methods, and its impact on the general population.
In this blog, we seek to debunk the falsities and myths about ABA and relay factual information regarding the intervention. As proponents of the effective treatment, we hope to provide clarifications and truths that will allow for informed decisions about the use of ABA with your child on the spectrum.
Question: What exactly is ABA therapy?
Answer: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is an evidence-based best practice treatment by the US Surgeon General and by the American Psychological Association. ABA is a therapeutic approach that focuses on modifying socially significant behaviors. Through the systematic use of the principles of behavior, functional and adaptive skills are increased, while maladaptive or undesirable behaviors are decreased. Research has shown that ABA therapy is an effective treatment for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as other co-morbid developmental disorders. As each human being is unique in his/her own way, therefore the ABA therapy is modified by the concerned team to meet the needs of each child, leading to constructive changes over a period of time.
Positive reinforcement is the main pillar of ABA. It is used to teach new skills as well as increase the frequency of some functional skills which the child is already familiar with. Another pillar of ABA therapy understands what happens before a behavior occurs and the impact of the behavior. ABA therapy can be imparted in centers or at homes where the child is most at ease and show the biggest gains.
Question. What does it entail?
Answer - The therapy does not follow a rigid cookie – cutter approach. Personalized therapy plans are drawn up by certified BCBAs based on a detailed evaluation of the individual’s requirements, skills, preferences, interests, issues, and family scenario. The BCBA uses this data to set goals and a therapy plan. This plan is implemented by a qualified therapist, such as a registered behavior technician (RBT) or board-certified assistant behavior analyst (BCABA). The therapist works under the supervision of the BCBA. Progress is evaluated by collating information in each therapy session. The therapist works in tandem with the family / caregivers and reviews the progress achieved from time to time. If progress is not on track then the plans are modified to obtain suitable results.
Question. Is ABA useful to reduce / remove maladaptive behaviors?
Answer – Yes, it is used in many cases to help persons and their families deal with harmful scenarios. The therapy starts with noting the unsafe behavior(s), identifying the trigger(s), and then imparting education on safer responses and so on.
Question. Can ABA therapy be applied throughout the lifespan?
Answer – Yes. It is an effective therapy for all age groups. The principles/techniques are the same but the intended goals vary based on the needs, situation, and age group. As children turn to adults, the goals could range from independent living to using public transport to social & communication skills needed in a work setting.