What is ABA?

“Before ABA therapy, my son hardly interacted with me. It was as if he physically couldn’t hear me talking to him. Not long after starting ABA, his behavior began to change. Now he laughs and plays with me. The difference is amazing!”

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is an instruction method that uses the scientific principles of human behavior to shape behavior. ABA Therapy is widely recognized as the most effective, evidence-based treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It is also an effective treatment for children with ADD and ADHD. It is endorsed by the U.S. Surgeon General and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Applied” means that program goals are geared toward achieving socially-important goals, helping children to be more successful in natural settings (such as home, school, and community). “Behavioral Analysis” means that assessments are used to identify the cause of a behavior before choosing an intervention method.

ABA Therapy uses systematic instructional procedures to help children with autism learn new skills rapidly and efficiently. ABA is also used to reduce destructive behaviors that restrict everyday living (such as tantrums, body rocking/hand waiving, running away, hurting/biting/kicking/hitting others or themselves, non-compliance, etc.) Skills are broken into small components and taught to a child through a system of reinforcement. ABA uses continuous data collection to evaluate whether the current teaching method is working.

There is strong scientific evidence that the earlier treatment begins, the greater the likelihood and magnitude of positive long-term outcomes. Although we do not yet have research to explain what happens in the brain of an autistic child who receives this intensive training, there is evidence of enduring changes (for the better) in how their brain functions.

Success On The Spectrum offers high quality ABA therapy that predominantly utilizes NET (training with real-world experiences). If you think that ABA means that your child will be taught like a robot, let us change your mind! While concrete concepts are important, we focus on teaching the child how to think. Instead of having a child memorize how to say the word “dog” when they see a certain flashcard, SOS therapists will help the child understand the meaning of the word. We start with pictures of different colored dogs, play with plush dogs, and take field trips to pet real dogs. The child has fun while interactively learning.

At SOS, we value the long-term goals. Every program is devised to promote your child’s development into a productive and independent adult. Taking our lessons outside of the classroom allows our clients to connect their lessons to real-life situations. Social Skills are extremely relevant to maintaining a job. Independence Skills are valuable for living away from parents. Communication Skills are necessary to form healthy relationships. There is no guarantee that every child is capable of becoming an independent adult, but we believe that every child should be given the best opportunity.

SOS Uses 3 Main ABA Strategies

  1. Manage the consequences of behavior (reward positive behavior and withhold positive consequences to deter undesirable behavior)
  2. Re-arrange antecedents to promote positive behavior and minimize the likelihood of problem behavior occurring (such as clarifying expectations, simplifying tasks, and providing choices)
  3. Teach skills that allow individuals to be more socially acceptable and less reliant on problem behavior to meet their needs

Example of
Reducing Problem Behavior

Problem Behavior:
While at the grocery store, Alex screams and shouts for mom to carry him. After he screaming, his mom becomes embarrassed and picks him up.

Functional Behavior Analysis:
A Behavior Analyst recognizes that the reason Alex engages in this behavior is to obtain social attention from his mom. Since his mom is giving him what he wants, the problem behavior is being reinforced (rewarded).

Step 1: The ABA therapist uses the replacement method by instructing the child to ask mom to carry him instead of screaming. This method exchanges the undesirable behavior (screaming) with an acceptable one (using words to communicate what he wants).

Step 2: The ABA therapist instructs mom to only pick up Alex when he verbally asks. When a behavior no longer gets what it wants (no longer reinforced) it will reduce in frequency until it eventually stops.

The ABA therapist discreetly follows Mom and Alex in the grocery store. There, she observes Alex and continuously collects and records data on Alex’s screaming. This data would be graphed each day so it could be visually analyzed to identify if the solution is working.

At first, Alex may feel he has to try harder to obtain mom’s attention. To try harder, he shouts more than he normally would (increased frequency), for a longer period of time than he normally would (increased duration) and louder than he normally would (increased magnitude/intensity).

Eventually, Alex will accept that the screaming and shouting “doesn’t work” anymore and so it will eventually reduce until it stops. When Alex finally asks for Mom to hold him, she picks him up immediately. Alex understands that this method works quickly, so he may choose to use this new method of getting what he wants in the future.

Example of
Increasing Independence

Problem Behavior:
Jon is unable to write his name. Mom tries to teach him, but Jon becomes easily frustrated and refuses to try.

Functional Behavior Analysis:
A Behavior Analyst recognizes that writing is a source of anxiety for Jon.

Step 1: The ABA Therapist devises a way to make writing more enjoyable for Jon. Instead of using a pen, the therapist gives Jon a Pokemon paintbrush. Instead of writing letters, the therapist teaches Jon how to draw simple funny pictures. “J” is practiced by painting an umbrella. “O” is practiced by making a smiley face. “N” is practiced by tracing fingertips.

Step 2: The therapist sets Jon up for success. Jon is not asked to write the letters until the therapist is 100% sure that he can do it. She doesn’t want Jon to feel failure.

After practicing fun shapes with a paintbrush, the therapist decides that Jon is ready. She asks for one letter at a time with the promise of a reward.

When Jon succeeds, the therapist gives Jon much praise and immediately gives him a desired toy. As time goes by, Jon’s desire to write increases and the anxiety diminishes.