Applied Behavior Analysis Basics

Applied Behavior Analysis Basics

Applied Behavior Analysis, or better known as ABA, is the most effective way to teach a child diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. ABA is implemented by teaching a child one step-by-step lesson, followed by successive lessons based on the previous lesson. During lessons, the child is guided by the parent or teacher to get the desired response – improving that response a little more in each subsequent lesson. ABA interventions have been shown to be effective in improving academics, speech, language, and socially appropriate behavior.

The ABA method is based on the theory that behavior is shaped by the consequences of the actions. Furthermore, the consequences serve as the motivation for repeating the action. For example, a boy works hard to get good grades because he gets a reward, but when the rewards are no longer given, he will stop working hard to get good grades.

The Lovaas Method is another method employed by ABA behaviorists. Lovaas uses techniques similar to DTT but is designed to be used in mainstream classes. Unlike other methods, the Lovass method concentrates on younger children, using an interactive play-based approach.

Discrete Trial Training (DTT) is based on the principles of ABA wherein there is a specific instruction to be followed. When the child successfully follows instructions, the teacher will reinforce or reward the child by saying “Very good!” and the like. But when the child fails to oblige, the teacher will merely say, “Let’s try again” or something similar. This method helps the child to develop the ability to maintain a conversation and improve decision-making skills.

A child is required to have 32 to 40 hours of Applied Behavior Analysis a week for it to be effective. Adherence to the 40-hour requirement can result in better interpersonal skills, higher IQ levels, and improved decision-making. The reason behind the 40-hour requirement is to provide adequate structured intervention for the child. In addition to the regular ABA schedule, parents are encouraged to engage the child the same way conversationally as they would an ordinary child. This form of communication may be able to help the child learn from the conversation and improve their own verbal skills.

In other words, ABA therapy is established on the analysis of every behavior, where each behavior is broken down into smaller elements, and teaching each small element one at a time, using rewards in specific situations. This is an extremely structured, strict, systematic, and consistent teaching approach. It is coordinated around:

  1. The way a request is made of the child (Antecedents)
  2. The response of the child to requests (Target Behaviors)
  3. The way adults react to the child’s correct/incorrect responses (Consequences)

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Being an RBT for me was extremely fun because where were you going to find a place where you can be completely silly without having to worry what people thought about you? This was the only job that made me feel like I could make a dramatic difference while being myself.

I also liked to be surrounded by people that had the same goals of wanting to help kids and the teamwork made the job much easier and more enjoyable.

Change and progress was the ultimate goal for our kiddos. The early intervention program was seriously only a miracle because I saw changes in the kiddos that from day one, you wouldn’t even recognize who they were.

Changes from being able to utter 3-4 words where they can only make a syllable from when they started, the behavior decreases in which kiddo that used to engage in 30-40 0 self-harm to only half, learning how to wait during games, table work where they use to swipe and drop to the floor if they had to.

My favorite was when the parents would tell us what amazing progress they were making at home. I used to tear up and felt for these parents so much because it was already difficult for them and now, they can trust and rely on ABA and the therapists knowing their goal was ours.

By Emma Rogers, BA, RBT

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