December 16, 2020

More Than ABCs: The Teaching Tools Involved in ABA Therapy

Explaining the elements of ABA Therapy and how it helps children with ASD

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or other developmental conditions, face specific challenges in how they respond to environments or situations. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy can help children cope and thrive while achieving a higher level of independence.

What exactly is ABA Therapy and what are its key training methods? We’ll review a few of them below so you can decide if this type of therapy might be helpful for your child.

Defining ABA Therapy

ABA stands for Applied Behavior Analysis. The purpose of this therapeutic technique is to help children and their families address and reduce behavioral issues. As you may be aware, changes to your child’s routine or unknown situations/activities can cause stress and anxiety. The stress can lead to challenging behaviors, including aggressive verbal and/or physical reactions.

ABA Therapy has seven primary goals:

  1. Identify the behaviors you want to change
  2. Set specific goals and outcomes
  3. Determine how to measure progress and improvements
  4. Evaluate where your child stands at the outset of therapy
  5. Help your child learn new skills and address challenging behaviors
  6. Review your child’s progress over time
  7. Determine if further therapy is necessary

ABA Therapy can also provide teaching strategies for parents and caregivers to help their children at home and in other environments.

Let’s look at three of the specific elements of ABA Therapy.

Discrete Trial Teaching 

Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT) is one of the interventional methods applied during ABA Therapy. Developed in the 1970s by Doctor Ivar Lovaas, DTT is sometimes recommended for children who have  ASD. These children may display Level 3 signs of ASD, such as an inability to speak, extreme sensitivity to touch, or repetitive behaviors, like continual rocking back and forth.

DTT breaks activities down into small, easily-taught parts. This method works by applying repetition to help develop cognitive, communication, play, social, and self-help skills.

DTT has five steps:

  1. Discriminative stimulus
  2. The prompt
  3. Child response
  4. Consequence
  5. Inter-trial interval

Pivotal Response Training

Pivotal Response Training (PRT) applies the principle of encouragement, by asking the child to engage in play-based therapy. Dr. Robert L. Koegel and Dr. Lynn Kern Koegel developed the method in the 1970s.

PRT targets “pivotal” elements of a child’s development, rather than focusing on specific behaviors. This can help children build social and communication skills while reducing disruptive behaviors and enhancing learning.

There are four areas of PRT focus:

  • Motivation
  • Response to cues
  • Self-management
  • Initiation of social interactions

Fluency Building

Fluency building trains a child to develop appropriate responses by continuous repetition of elements of specific behaviors.

Fluency building can be helpful with certain daily activities, including:

  • Bathing
  • Eating with utensils
  • Getting dressed
  • Brushing teeth/hair
  • Washing hands
  • Picking up toys
  • Interactions with others

With fluency building, activities are broken down into small steps and then repeated until each step has been mastered. After practice and mastery, your child will become “fluent” in the skill.

ABA Therapy helps everyone cope

Your child’s behavior can impact his/her life in numerous ways, both at school and with family members and friends. ABA Therapy can help him or her learn appropriate behaviors while teaching you how to reinforce those lessons at home.

Lumiere Children’s Therapy offers a high level of supervision with ABA Therapy to maintain an exceptional level of care.

We also provide other comprehensive therapies so children with a wide range of physical, emotional, and developmental conditions can achieve traditional milestones.

Our services include:

  • Speech therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Developmental therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Social work
  • Augmentative alternative communication
  • Early intervention
  • Teletherapy

Lumiere Children’s Therapy is a full-service, multidisciplinary pediatric therapy practice located in Chicago that serves the developmental needs of children from birth to 18 years of age. Learn more about how our team of clinicians works to improve the lives of children and their families.

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