Learn everything you need to know about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. This definitive guide will walk you through ABA therapy for autism.
ABA therapy is a behavioral therapy based on the science of learning and behavior. It focuses on improving social and communication skills, improving learning, reducing negative behaviors, and increasing positive behaviors.
ABA therapy applies our understanding of how behavior works to real life situations. The goal of the therapy is to increase behaviors that are positive and decrease behaviors that are negative or harmful.
ABA therapy stands for Applied Behavior Analysis therapy which is based on the science of learning and behavior.
Diagnosis is an important part of giving autistic children beneficial therapy. ABA therapy, or Applied Behavioral Analysis, focuses on relationship building.
Gregarious children with strong behavioral and social skills are in a better position to succeed, in the classroom and far beyond their grade school years.
The objective of ABA is to enhance a child’s personable skills, interactions within their peer group and those outside of it, and their ability to socialize with different people.
Being therapeutic, the concept involves interacting with a child in several steps, each having a set of benefits or unfavorable outcomes.
Compared to similar forms of treatment, ABA therapy is widespread and designed to mitigate the symptoms of children on the spectrum.
With proper care and understanding of a child’s needs, its characteristics can be addressed with positive results.
ABA therapy begins with Dr. Ivar Lovaas, a specialist in behavioral psychology.
He is the first to use ABA therapy in his treatment of autism, believing that autistic children’s ability to interact and their environment was imperative to them improving the disorder’s symptoms.
If the treatment was successful, he theorized that their autism could be altered or eliminated.
Once symptoms common with autism weren’t recorded, Dr. Ivar Lovaas speculated that the disorder was no longer present.
At one time, ABA therapy had qualities that in today’s society would be considered draconian.
It would incorporate controversial activities such as electroshock therapy and other extremities. Currently, such procedures are no longer a part of ABA treatment.
Instead, penalizing activities conform more to the identical standards of parents treating their children, meaning the holdback of certain privileges.
In one instance, a child that doesn’t give an appropriate reaction to a directive has their reward delayed.
Regardless, Lovaas’ palatable techniques have been refined over time, corrected, and advanced by researchers and professionals to better understand autism.
The aim for them is to assist patients in adapting to their autism, not to force unwanted and unrealistic changes upon their lives.
Read More: ABA Therapy Success Rates
ABA incorporates different approaches to identify an individual’s behavioral characteristics related to their autism. It’s versatile and nonlinear, involving the following procedures:
Behavior that leads to the result of something that’s favored by the patient, a repeat of the same behavior will increase.
As the treatment progresses, preferred behavioral advances become normalized.
However, therapy’s onset begins by finding a goal, a behavior that’s inclined to give positive results.
Pending good conduct, the therapist administers a reward to the patient. It must be something worthwhile.
Verbal approval of the behavior, playtime with a doll or action figure, access to a favored piece of music or web video, and free time in a play area are some examples.
Learn More – ABA Therapy Techniques & Examples
In basic terms, an antecedent describes events that happen to precede the behavior in line with autism.
It also describes the setbacks or consequences that take place following the same behavioral event. Understanding antecedent behavior is an integral part of ABA.
Specifically, an antecedent happens immediately before the behavior of a patient. In many cases, the event involves spoken commands or an appeal but can also be physical situations.
Maybe there’s a specific sound or fixture that’s characteristic of the antecedent. Environmental factors may brighten certain moods or sentiments.
Moving on is the behavior that results from the preceding event. It’s their reaction, or lack thereof, to what previously happened. Again, a reply or physical response can be a part of this.
The third is the consequential result that happens from the behavior later on.
If the behavior is wanted, then positive reinforcement is suggested. If not, then the lack of a reaction may suffice for a better result in the future.
For example, if a parent demands that their child come back inside and the child shouts no in protest, the parent could take away some of the toys that were played with outdoors.
The antecedent is the request for them to come back inside. The behavior is the disobeyed reaction by verbal means, and the consequence is the confiscation of their outdoor toys.
Some programs common among ABA sessions are as follows:
ABA therapy has been beneficial but remains contested by some, first are the positive aspects of the therapy.
Numerous studies reveal that ABA can assist in the development abilities of people on the spectrum.
They conclude that ABA provides lasting good results to many with autism. These results range from newly acquired skills, greatly improved social skills, and better long-term behavioral improvements.
It can raise the IQ of autistic children and lower unwanted effects on diagnosed patients. ABA is also great for helping the autistic learn simplistic and more sophisticated abilities.
For instance, giving a small token of reward for a child for washing themselves properly is simple, whereas a major gift is made after finishing a group project with their peers is complex.
ABA therapy companies can also give parents or guardians better guidance on speaking by breaking down the words into consonants and syllables.
Overall, ABA solidifies the fact that children with autism can learn and grow their cognitive abilities at a pace that’s consistent with their peers.
Read More: Does Autism Get Worse With Age?
Punishment is no longer a part of the ABA treatment.
Therefore, it’s irrelevant to any novel critique of the therapy. Still, some contend that it’s a bit unpleasant for some or most autistic people. Here are the most frequent complaints of ABA:
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Here are ABA’s main principles:
Much of the description concerning ABA is related to how the therapy works and an objective scrutinization of it. But what about the end goals?
The overall goal for ABA therapy is subject to the child’s requirements for improving their behavioral and learning abilities.
Nevertheless, here are some of the goals that parents should expect to reach:
The costs of ABA therapy depends on the need of the child and the kind of therapy that’s chosen. The person prescribing the therapy may also adjust their rates according to different circumstances.
The region where you live might be more expensive or cheaper for ABA therapy than other nearby localities. The more amenities provided with the therapy, the higher the price can be.
On average, one hour of therapy from a certified ABA therapist can cost from $120-150.
This may or may not include associated fees, which can significantly increase the overall price.
The lowest rates are typically found with therapists that aren’t certified. The certification extends to therapists working with a group, and the person overseeing the work.
Most professionals that study autism suggest a full-time 40-hour therapy session every week.
However, you should realistically expect sessions of no more than 10 or 15 hours every week, sometimes less.
Again, the time spent in a weekly session can depend on the child being provided the therapy.
At 10 hours on a $150 an hour session, the price would be $1500 for seven days.
Positive development usually isn’t seen until a month passes, though it could take several months or even years to reach the goals that were previously described.
Here’s what the experts say about when to end ABA for your child:
Like most services involving behavioral therapy, ABA is provided by a group. It’s the BCBA, or a board-certified behavior analyst. For a therapist to be part of a BCBA, the criteria below must be fulfilled:
A therapy program will have a behavior technician. These are ABA therapists. Other names typically of them are line and behavioral therapists.
Their knowledge and training are overseen by BCBA members. Work is usually hands-on, with autistic adults and children having to interact with them to enhance needed skills and behavior that drive them toward the board’s goals.
The success they make is on an individual level, so what works for one child may not receive identical results with another.
Read more: 7 ABA Therapy Dimensions
Over a dozen studies were done that concluded ABA is an effective tool in growing the cognitive functions and language understanding of autistic people of varied ages.
If the results of ABA therapy weren’t positive, it wouldn’t receive the level of recommendation that it has by experts on autism.
The entire therapy session is conducted using means that are based on what works according to evidence, as is acknowledged by the American Psychological Association and US Public Health Service.
The ABA has undergone rigorous testing, particularly regarding the preceding antecedents and consequential results encouraging the behavior.
For this reason, ABA has broadened in use, with additional tests being performed to gauge the long-term results of the therapy.
Still, it should be noted that many of the studies conducted were from people receiving 20 to 40-hour weekly treatments between a 1 and three-year timespan.
Sociability was improved, as was listening and functioning during the entirety of the treatment.
The average health insurance policy will cover ABA therapy.
But due to the nature of healthcare coverage, it’s strongly recommended that you get in touch with your provider to discuss the nuances or if anything is to be paid out of pocket.
Predicated on the state that you live in, your provider could be required to cover such therapy by law.
The type of health insurance you have and whether it’s for you or your child could also determine what you will or won’t have to pay.
Medicaid stipulates that coverage for children under 21 should be necessary for the improvement of their health and learning abilities.
This is subject to what a doctor prescribes to a child and whether the ABA treatment is marked as a mandatory need for their well-being.
In most cases involving children with autism, a doctor will advise the parents or guardians about the therapy if they suggest it.
Alternatively, your child’s school may offer assistance by funding the costs required to get the therapy. When this is possible, it usually requires a psychiatric evaluation by a doctor.
When in doubt or if you’re experiencing difficulty in getting coverage, you can speak with an ABA therapist for plans that would cover your situation. Full coverage might be a phone call away.
The first step to finding an ABA therapist is to get in touch with your local pediatrician, who can send you to the right people.
As a bonus, they may link you to a certified therapist that’s priced better, something you may seek out if a copayment is your only option.
A search on the web also suggests, that if you go this route or the first one, remember that the certified therapist may work indirectly with your child, taking a supervisory role over other trained therapists instead.
It’s certainly possible to conduct ABA therapy at home. There’s evidence of more goals being reached at a faster pace when children are in a familiar environment.
They’re naturally more comfortable in places they’ve seen before, around people they know well. There’s less social pressure on practicing essential duties like using bathroom fixtures, taking a shower, or appropriately dressing.
It’s strongly advised to use only a licensed therapist in a home setting when first carrying out the therapy. Later on, it’s fine to switch between a subordinate directly below one that’s certified. Both can institute sessions made to personally address the problems your child is experiencing.
Sessions could also be provided over a computer. It’s a cost-effective way for a child to receive therapy when other means aren’t available to you.
Read More: At-Home ABA Therapy
There are plenty of ABA professionals out there. Finding one that’s good for your child may see you turning down some and requesting additional questioning from others.
You can verify if a therapist is suitable by the reaction your child gets from seeing them, as all children are prone to gravitate towards people they like and respect.
Here’s a list of questions that should be sent to any ABA therapist you speak with:
The main controversies with ABA treatment are the people that attempt the therapy and its historical origins.
Some people claiming to be ABA professionals are unlicensed and have no certification. Always seek out therapists with the appropriate credentials to care for your child.
ABA, like many characteristics of therapy created long ago, used methods to treat autism that resulted in the opposite of what they intended to reach.
ABA is argued by some as an obstruction to autistic children learning at a pace that suits them, and that emphasis is too dependent on punishment instead of teaching with no penalties.
An ABA therapy session could include any of these activities:
ABA therapy paid out of pocket will cost:
However, there are many insurance providers that will greatly reduce the cost of ABA therapy for your family. Contact us today to learn which insurance providers we accept.
Read More: ABA Therapy Cost
You should stop receiving ABA therapy when:
Read More: When To Stop ABA Therapy
Ivar Lovaas (1927-2010) is the inventor of applied behavior analysis (ABA therapy). His role in the development of ABA was influenced by his own behavioral preconditions and an environment that was established by his peers.
Read More: History Of Applied Behavior Analysis
The average child takes ABA therapy for around 2-3 years of intensive therapy followed by possibly 2-3 more years of a focused approach.
Ivar Lovaas, the inventor of ABA, proved that early intervention and intensive behavioral therapy enabled children children with autism to achieve success. In fact, 90% of children make large gains through ABA therapy.
There is currently no cure for autism, which means ABA therapy cannot cure autism. However, experts say that the best way to manage symptoms and develop skills is through ABA therapy. Autism is a complicated disorder that is presented differently in each person.
Read More: Is There A Cure For Autism?
In most cases, insurance will cover a large portion of ABA therapy's costs. The majority of insurance plans cover autism treatment, but coverage varies in each state and plan.
Myth: ABA therapy is only for children with autism
Fact: ABA therapy can help children and adults without autism adopt positive behaviors and reduce negative ones.
Your child should get 2-5 hours of ABA therapy per day, 10-40 hours per week, and 40-120 hours per month.
Read More: ABA Therapy Recommended Hours
ABA therapy is controversial because there are disagreements between supporters and critiques of the therapy on whether or not it's effective or safe. Studies show that ABA therapy is effective and safe.
Applied Behavior Analysis continues to grow in use as a verifiable way to treat or minimize the effects of autism. The therapy is overwhelmingly viewed positively by people that have it prescribed for children, and it is recommended by doctors and pediatricians around the country.