The goals, methods, and skills taught in ABA Therapy for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Key takeaways of ABA Therapy:
- Analyzes how & why behaviors are learned
- Uses positive reinforcement to promote appropriate behaviors
- Helps children build communicative, play, visual, self-help, and social skills
- Helps reduce inappropriate behaviors
- Applicable to each child’s unique needs & challenges
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 1 in 54 children in the U.S. are identified as having Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). These children face many challenges, particularly when it comes to communication, social skills, and rigid or repetitive behavior. However, there is an effective method that can help children on the autism spectrum gain the skills they need to thrive in school and social situations.
It’s called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy, and it is something you should consider if your child has been recently diagnosed.
To help you decide if ABA is right for you and your child, we’ll discuss the foundation of ABA Therapy, the therapy goals, and the types of skills your child can learn from the experts at Lumiere Children’s Therapy in Chicago.
ABA Therapy explained
According to Autism Speaks, “ABA Therapy is a therapy based on the science of learning and behavior.”
It “analyzes” how behaviors are learned, what factors affect behavior (such as the environment), and how learning happens. Trained Behavior Analysts apply this knowledge to real-world situations to promote carryover skills and behaviors from the therapeutic setting to other environments.
Goals of ABA Therapy
There are several primary goals of ABA Therapy for children on the autism spectrum. They include:
- Enhance communication and language skills
- Improve age-appropriate and social skills
- Improve various skills needed for success in school
- Decrease incidents of inappropriate behaviors
Some children on the autism spectrum struggle with following instructions and handling tasks that require multiple steps. Others may act out around other kids, which can make social situations challenging. Some children become aggressive or upset when faced with unfamiliar situations, places, or routines.
The best characteristic of ABA Therapy is that it can be applied and adapted according to the unique needs and goals of each child. ABA is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution, but one that is designed to help with your child’s specific deficits.
How therapy works
ABA Therapy works through a process of positive reinforcement, which rewards behaviors you want your child to learn so he/she can grow and meet his/her full potential. Positive reinforcement means something of value is given after completing a task or demonstrating a skill. Over time, this reward is faded out so that the child learns to continue the new skill even without receiving the reward.
How to achieve goals with positive reinforcement:
- Identify the behavior or skill you want your child to learn
- Give a reward each time the behavior/skill is demonstrated
This process is repeated until the behavior/skill is completed successfully every time. The reward should be something that motivates your child, whether it’s simple praise, a beloved toy, a favorite snack, or watching a video.
The ABC’s of behavior
Positive reinforcement is the essential part of teaching new behaviors or skills. Another element of ABA Therapy, which addresses reduction of challenging behavior, is called the ABC’s of behavior.
A = Antecedent (what happens before the behavior)
B = Behavior (the behavior itself)
C = Consequences (what happens after the behavior)
If you ask your child to pick up his toys, for example, and he yells “no”, you might help him clean up the toys. You probably wouldn’t let him continue playing because this teaches that shouting is an acceptable form of avoiding instructions.
The ABC’s of behavior are beneficial because it helps the therapist (and you) understand why your child behaves a certain way. It also helps you understand how different consequences or positive reinforcement can lead to better outcomes.
Examples of skills your child can learn
We talked about applying ABA to real-world situations so let’s talk about some of the real-world skills your child can learn during therapy:
- Communication skills
- Social skills
- Self-help skills (activities of daily living like dressing, bathing, feeding, basic hygiene)
- Play & leisure skills
- Visual skills (activities like matching, sorting, patterns)
Each desired skill is learned by breaking activities up into small, concrete steps. Each step is taught one by one until each is mastered. The skill might be as simple as imitating sounds or as complex as carrying on a conversation.
Progress is measured over time by collecting data during each therapy session. This data tells the Behavior Analyst where your child needs extra help or how well he/she is mastering a skill.
ABA Therapy at Lumiere Children’s Therapy
ABA Therapy is designed to help your child learn appropriate behavior that will replace challenging behavior. It also teaches you how to reinforce those lessons at home. Our highly skilled therapists use safe, effective, and multifaceted approaches to teach a multitude of skills that make positive and meaningful behavior change possible.
Aside from ABA Therapy, Lumiere Children’s Therapy provides other comprehensive services so children with a wide range of physical, emotional, and developmental conditions can achieve traditional milestones.
- Speech Therapy
- Occupational Therapy
- Developmental Therapy
- Physical Therapy
- Social Work
- Early Intervention
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.