There’s a common saying that goes, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is exactly that – a spectrum. No two children are affected in exactly the same way. Some children experience only mild symptoms while others are more significantly affected. It really depends on the individual. Therefore, treatment depends on the individual as well. What works for one child may not be appropriate for the next.
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy has been found to be widely appropriate for many children. It is customizable to each individual’s unique needs but is still based on the same principles and strategies; how they are applied varies.
What is ABA Therapy?
ABA Therapy is not a new approach to treating autism and other conditions. It has been around since the 1960s but has gained more attention in recent years. The idea is to use a variety of techniques to reinforce positive changes in behavior. This can help to curb undesirable behaviors and promote independence, communication, learning, reasoning, adaptability, and much more. Children who engage in ABA therapy may see improvements at school, at home, and in the community. What they learn can be applied to many different aspects of their life.
Sometimes ABA therapy is used on its own, and sometimes children also receive occupational, speech, play, or other therapies as well. It all depends on the child and their individual needs. The therapists at PediaPlex work with families to determine how environment affects behavior, what their concerns are, and what type of goals they have for their child.
What is ABA Therapy Used For?
This type of therapy can be used to address a wide range of issues. It can be used to improve basic skills such as listening, looking, waiting, and imitating behaviors, or for more complex situations such as following directions, reading, or engaging in conversation. Some parents may want to curb aggressive behaviors such as hitting or pinching, or perhaps want their child to be able to stay in their seat for a specified amount of time. It can also be used to support multi-step skills such as getting dressed, tying shoes, feeding oneself, or toileting.
Children build their skills a little bit at a time. It takes hard work and patience to see marked results, but goals are set so that they are measurable and attainable. Your child won’t go from sitting for 5 seconds to sitting for 15 minutes overnight, but slowly you’ll see their behavior start to change. Therapists make activities fun so children don’t even realize they’re learning or practicing. They are doing a variety of tasks and being positively rewarded.
What Strategies are Used in ABA Therapy?
The individual approaches used will be determined by your child’s needs and goals. Two strategies that are often used in ABA therapy at PediaPlex are shaping and chaining. With shaping, a child is met at their current level and then slowly builds up to their goal. For instance, if the goal is to sit in their seat for 10 minutes and they’re only able to sit for 15 seconds, that is where the therapist will start. Your child will practice sitting for 15 second increments, and then it will build to 20 seconds, 25 seconds, and so on, until they are able to sit for 10 minutes consecutively.
Chaining involves breaking down more complex tasks into smaller steps and then connecting all of the steps together. If the goal is to have your child independently put on their pants, the first step might be holding the pants in the correct direction to put them on. Following steps may be putting one leg in, putting the second leg in, and then pulling them up. If they’re not elastic, additional steps could be fastening a snap or button, and then zipping the zipper. Your child would learn to do one step at a time, then connect them all together so that they can successfully put on their pants by themselves.
ABA therapy can be used to teach virtually any skill. It can support your child in improving relationships, their ability to follow directions, feeding themselves, taking turns, and much more. However, all of these changes take time. You don’t want to overwhelm your child and deter their progress.
How are Parents Involved?
The therapists at PediaPlex will work with you on how you can be an integral part of ABA therapy and on positively reinforcing desired behaviors. They’ll teach you how to carry over what your child is learning in therapy to what they are doing at home or when you are out in the community. It is important that the same lessons are being taught and reinforced across different environments. You are also an essential part of developing their treatment plan. No one knows your child better than you do, so your input and insight is valued. Therapists want your family to have a strong, positive relationship.
Is ABA Therapy Right for Your Child?
If you’re considering ABA therapy, talk to the therapists at PediaPlex to learn more about the program and how it can benefit your child. Many children begin when they are young, though older children can achieve positive results as well. Therapy often takes place for several hours a day during the week, so it is a commitment, but it is worth it to see your child transform. Every child responds differently and progresses at their own pace, but many experience a noticeable difference in their behavior.
At PediaPlex, we want to help your child to be as independent and successful as possible, and ABA therapy is one of the services available to support this. It has been endorsed by the U.S. Surgeon General, and therapy may be covered by insurance depending on your state and insurance plan. Get your child the one-on-one, personalized therapy they need to thrive and overcome some of the challenges they face with autism. ABA therapy at PediaPlex can make a difference in their life.
Are you interested in learning more about ABA Therapy? Contact PediaPlex today for more information!