Today, the majority of childhood developmental disorders are treated with effective behavioral therapies. It involves several behavioral modification techniques and systematic methods that uses behavioral principles that aim at changing a child’s behavior or the circumstances that lead to it.
These specific behaviors may manifest as disturbed speech, impaired language or social interactions, severe behavioral issues, including repetitive skills. For instance, children with Autism experience difficulty performing daily tasks such as dressing up, self-care or their routine interaction with others. Behaviorists suggest that these skills are easily taught with an individualized program.
But, let us first discuss how effective these behavioral modification techniques are in shaping the desired behavior of the child with ASD, especially the role of ABA therapy for Autism.
Child Behavior Management
Children with Autism have specific repetitive or restricted behaviors that may seem abnormal. You observe them playing with toys, in the same manner, each time or getting upset over minor changes in their routine. Also, they display some repetitive behaviors such as flapping hands or rocking the body.
Some of the behaviors exhibited by children with Autism are; nail-biting, non-compliance, bed wetting, temper tantrums or aggressive conduct. Effective behavior modification techniques are applied to help the child overcome these actions. Especially, the reinforcement strategies help children develop social, behavioral and communication skills.
For that matter, applied behavior analysis is considered most fruitful for children with Autism.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
ABA is a natural science and behavioral therapy for a child with Autism, developed by Dr. Ivar Lovaas. It is an instructional and step-wise skills training method that works best with young children with Autism. It was initially based on operant conditioning and positive reinforcement. However, it is observed that rewarding the desired behavior worked more effectively than punishing the child. Firstly, ABA practitioners observe the child in a natural environment and try to understand a child’s sensory, emotional, social needs and his interests, to devise an action plan accordingly.
It is the process of understanding the child’s behavior, predicting it and manipulating the environment around it to have a social valid behavior occurring from the child. Most mental health practitioners now use applied behavior analysis as an intervention to reshape the behavior of children with Autism.
But the question here arises, is ABA therapy good for Autism?
How is ABA Therapy for Autism Effective?
Behavioral approaches have proved to be most effective when treating the symptoms of Autism. These therapeutic techniques are widely practiced by mental health professionals, psychiatrists, school psychologists and caregivers. Although, ABA therapy for Autism is not a principle guide that works for all. Rather, a personalized program is developed individually. The purpose of each program is to help children function independently and successfully carry on with their routine. So, the behavior that is appreciated is more likely to be repeated by the child.
The Positive Reinforcement
Here, ABA therapy helps children with Autism learn and practice new behavior. These are the behaviors that are most desirable by the family or school. ABA programs help children to learn new skills and replace the unwanted behaviors with the appropriate one. Children are appreciated with positive consequences of their behavior. For instance, if a child wants his favorite toy, he points towards it, and in return, the parent gives him the toy. This reinforces the child’s behavior as he received the desired outcome out of this behavior.
Some prominent benefits of ABA therapy for Autism include:
- Helps through behavioral skills training
- Used to teach simple to complex skills
- Easy to apply techniques for the parents
- Strengthens the confidence of children with Autism
- Measurable results and long-term effectiveness
How Does ABA Therapy Work?
In order to carve an effective and individualized plan for a child with Autism, make sure you assess the child’s current difficulties and ability level. But, to begin with:
- Set achievable objectives and goals for implementing the target behavior
- Design and implement a specific program to teach target behavior
- Assess the target behavior to check if the program is effective
- Evaluate the success of the program and make changes if needed
But, is ABA therapy good for Autism? Note that ABA therapy for Autism works best with repeated actions such as removing the seat belt, opening or closing drawers. However, it also works with some communication (greetings), play (building blocks) or self-hygiene skills (showering).
Let us now discuss how does ABA therapy work for children with Autism.
Planning and Assessment
Initially, the therapist assesses the child’s behavior and their unique needs and devises a treatment plan they best respond to. The goal is to keep track of the behaviors that need to be reshaped or skills that need to be taught. Such as:
- Self-care (toilet training)
- Communication and language
- Social skills training
- Fine Motor skills
- Play and leisure activities
- Academic skills
ABA therapy treatment plans help treat the behavioral symptoms of ASD. Two of the tried and tested effective techniques are Discrete Trial Training (DTT) and Pivotal Response Training (PRT). The techniques work best for both children and adults.
A wide range of ABA techniques is applied in day-to-day activities. Routine therapeutic interactions help children to practice and learn in a short time. The behavior modification techniques are sometimes taught in a group, one-on-one or at home.
Discrete Trial Training (DTT)
DTT is a step-by-step instructional ABA therapy for Autism, teaching the target desired behavior with an active response. Take, for instance, you wish to teach the child to dress up all by themselves. Make sure you break the desired behavior into simplest parts, illicit behavioral response and reward the behavior.
For example, a trainer teaching colors to a child might begin by teaching red. She would ask the child to point to red and then reward the behavior. She would then move on to teaching yellow by itself, reinforce that skill, and then ask about both colors. After the child learns all his colors, the trainer might teach the child to say each color’s name.
Ask the child to put on the shirt and reinforce that skill, and then ask them to put on the socks and shoes and reinforce each behavior, respectively. This not only gives them a sense of autonomy but also allows them to feel confident about their achievements. In addition, reinforcement encourages the child to later repeat the behavior.
In another instance, the teacher gathers a group of children with ASD and engages them in an activity where the child has to point at the number card or color card. The student who points to the correct card is reinforced with treats. And in case a student points to the wrong card, their behavior is simply ignored instead of punished.
Pivotal Response Training (PRT)
Another effective ABA therapy treatment is PRT. This approach is practiced in a normal setting to help teach the child a pivotal skill that would help them learn many other related skills. For instance, teaching the student to greet when someone walks into the room reinforces their response. This shall help the child practice the same behavior in other situations. Overall, it strengthens the child’s cognitive, behavioral and social skills.
It is important to note here that PRT behavioral technique must be specific to the child. For instance, if you are teaching speech, make sure the child can speak two-word phrases before you teach them a three-word sentence building. But, do make sure you reward each behavior while in their learning phase.
Our discussion on ABA therapy for Autism is directed to help parents, caregivers, and teachers invest in behavioral therapy and watch children function well in their day-to-day life.
Today, ASD children demand professional assistance to better interact with the world. For that matter, Camali Clinic presents the best ABA therapist in Dubai, offering comprehensive and strategic therapeutic services. So, if your child or someone you know is struggling with ASD, contact us to receive expert ABA therapy in Dubai.