If you’re the parent of a child with autism, you’ve likely heard of applied behavior analysis, or ABA. Depending on where you are with regards to your child’s treatment options, you may not be fully familiar with the benefits that can come from working with an ABA professional.
ABA therapists, sometimes called school behavior analysts, work in a range of settings. Some are employed by schools, and provide support during the school day, while others work in private practice.
While ABA can be used to create improvements in people with a range of social and mental disabilities, it’s primarily known for its success among children with autism. Though ABA has been in use since the 1960s, it has grown significantly in popularity in recent years. A large body of quality research from multiple organizations provides substantial support for the effectiveness of ABA therapy for children with autism. Additionally, more than one respected, renowned group of researchers have cited ABA as a reliable, trusted option for autism treatment.
Though ABA can be used with any age group, it has the best outcomes when started young. It is highly structured, and can have an impact on several skill areas:
- Self-Care: Mastering this set of skills helps move children closer to being able to function, and ultimately live, independently. For a busy parent, especially one raising a child with autism, it’s easier to perform self-care tasks for the child instead of taking the time to teach and reinforce. This is understandable, and it’s also where ABA can be used with great success. Working closely with parents, behavior analysts develop plans for teaching self-care. To get an idea of what this might look like, here’s the first in a series of posts with step-by-step information on teaching these vital skills: Daily Life Skills Series, Part 1.
- Social skills: Better social skills can improve the quality of life for children with autism by helping them build strong connections with others. Social skills are closely related to good communication skills, because a child who can’t communicate effective will struggle to build friendships. Often included here are play skills, which may seem superfluous. But your own experience may have already shown you the close connection between play, communication, and social acceptance among peers.
- Communication Skills: The impact autism has on communication skills is far-reaching, and ranges broadly, from children who are nonverbal to children who possess solid vocabularies and the ability to speak in detail about a host of topics. ABA therapists have a variety of techniques which they implement based on the child’s specific needs, and often use a combination of approaches to achieve the desired outcome.
- Learning: According to Autism Speaks, studies have proven the effectiveness of ABA to positively impact student learning. They cite evidence from studies which show, in particular, the benefits of high-quality intensive early intervention ABA therapy programs. Children with autism tend to need more practice to master a skill, ABA therapy places an emphasis on multiple practice opportunities and ongoing measurement of progress.
The potential for success with ABA increases with parental involvement and collaboration with the therapist. When you look for an ABA therapist for your child, recognizing the importance of your own role is a key factor in your child’s future achievements.
Because none of the above skills can grow without the others, it’s important to recognize that a comprehensive approach to ABA is necessary, to ensure that all your child’s needs and goals are addressed. Though the internet offers a seemingly endless collection of high-quality resources for parents of children with autism, there is no substitute for working in person with a licensed, professional ABA provider.
Author Bio: Tracy Derrell is a Hudson Valley-based freelance writer who specializes in blogging, occasionally writing for Teach.com, and educational publishing. She taught English in New York City for sixteen years.