ABA stands for Applied Behavior Analysis– a method of behavior analysis that has been studied and used for decades. Its useful application for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder has brought it into the spotlight in recent decades, but it has been used since the 1960s to help children with autism and associated developmental disorders. At Mindful and Modern Therapies, ABA therapy takes our scientific understanding of behavior and applies it to real situations with the goal of increasing positive behaviors and decreasing negative behaviors. Mindful and Modern ABA Therapy practices ABA therapy for autism in a Montessori-style environment, an approach that resonates with many ASD children and their families.
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How does ABA therapy for autism work?
ABA therapy for autism uses positive reinforcement as a primary strategy to encourage and affect behavioral change. Therapists begin by identifying a behavior to target as a goal. When a child successfully uses the behavior, they are rewarded in a way that is meaningful to them, specifically. By repeatedly giving a reward for using a positive skill over time, eventually, behavioral change is achieved. While it sounds simple, ABA therapy uses behavioral science to understand the unique motivations of each child, creating an individual plan based upon these nuances. At MMAT, we work using the Montessori Method, which encourages children to take the initiative so that we can work towards their independence through cooperation.
ABA therapy for autism also uses three steps– the A-B-Cs to understand and shape behavior:
A is for antecedent, the event that happens just before a target behavior. It may be verbal, in the form of a request or a question. It could be physical, something like a toy, a sound, a light, or some other environmental element. Sometimes, an antecedent is internal.
B is for the behavior resulting from the antecedent. This might take the form of an action, a spoken response, or some other response.
C is for consequence, whatever follows the behavior directly. This may include positive reinforcement of a positive behavior or non-reaction to a negative or inappropriate response.
This is a very simplified explanation of how ABA works. By using these tools, we can understand why a behavior is happening and how better learn how to reinforce positive behavior.
The beauty of ABA therapy is its flexibility. It can be adapted to meet each child’s unique needs, can be provided in almost any location– a classroom, at home, or in the community–, and can work on a one-on-one or group setting.
What is involved in a program of ABA therapy for autism?
At MMAT, our ABA therapy program centers on helping each individual child learn the skills that will make them more successful and independent on a short and long-term basis. Planning is essential to successful ABA therapy for autism. A highly-qualified behavior analyst (BCBA) customizes each child’s therapy plan based on their interests, preferences, needs, and skills. Family goals are often included as a part of the plan.
Therapists (RBT) and BCBAs continually measure a child’s progress through data collection. Every therapy session is an opportunity to collect data and to monitor progress towards goals. BCBAs meet with family members regularly to review information, adjust teaching plans, and plan ahead together.
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Families play an active role in ABA therapy for autism
In addition to meeting with the BCBA and RBT on a regular basis to discuss progress and review milestones that have been met, families are active participants in ABA therapy. Caregivers, family members, and parents are encouraged to receive training so that they are also able to support a child’s skill practice and learning at home. By maintaining consistent positive reinforcement and other therapeutic protocols in various environments, we make sure that meaningful behavioral changes are long-lasting.
Who provides ABA therapy for autism and what are their qualifications?
There are several types of professionals who work together to provide ABA therapy for autism at MMAT.
- A board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA) is the top-tier of the professionals who work with children to provide ABA therapy. BCBAs give clinical diagnoses of ASD and create therapy plans for each child on an individual basis. Each BCBA has earned either a master’s degree or a Ph.D. in behavior analysis or psychology, passed a national certification exam, and in some states is required to attain a license.
- A board-certified assistance behavior analyst (BCaBA) works under the supervision of a BCBA. A BCaBA has earned a bachelor’s degree in behavior analysis, passed a national certification exam, and in some states is required to hold a license.
- A registered behavior technician (RBT) is a trained therapist who works under the supervision of a BCBA. These are the professionals who work one-on-one with children each day to practice skills and achieve the individual goals defined by the BCBA.
Get started with ABA therapy for Autism
The first step towards enrolling your child in a program is to take a tour of the Mindful and Modern ABA Therapies facility to see if it is a good fit for your family. If you believe that our staff and program is right for your child, then you must schedule an assessment with us to get a clinical diagnosis for your child. During the assessment, a BCBA will spend 15-30 minutes working with and observing your child in order to determine whether they have ASD. Once your child has been diagnosed, the process of being approved by your insurance company begins, and once you are approved, you may enroll your child in therapy. Once your child is enrolled, the BCBA will create a treatment plan specific to your child, and they will be paired with an RBT for their treatment.