Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a scientific method that uses principles that focus on general learning and human behavior techniques to foster a substantial change in behavior. After decades of research and development, applied behavior analysis is now being used for early treatment and therapy for learners with autism.
How ABA Is Applied as a Therapy for Autism
Applied behavior analysis specialists study the behavior of a learner with autism. Specifically by observing their actions and skills, and how that behavior is affected and impacted by their environment. Environment includes physical settings and social events. The goal of an ABA specialist is to address and help correct problems that concern a range of skills and social behavior. This approach has been integrated into programs for young children showing characteristics of Autism. By providing a learning structure that focuses on growth of specific skills, these interaction-based activities offer both formal and unstructured ways to increase motor skills, communication, play, self-care, social skills and more.
Specialized programs using applied behavior analysis techniques have been shown to help children with autism learn delayed skills they need to function and adapt, and also reduce any unacceptable and harmful behavior. Children that have undergone applied behavior analysis therapy or treatment for up to three years have shown drastic improvement in their communication, adaptive and cognitive skills. Research indicates that 47 percent of young autistic learners who receive early-applied behavior analysis intervention recover from behaviors associated with this diagnosis and further develop to lead full, productive lives.
Applied behavior analysis treatment and therapy programs for learners with autism are customized for each individual case based on needs, interests and situation. Professional behavior analysts assess the skills of a learner with autism and consider the family's preferences to design an intervention program with positive, meaningful goals. Skills necessary to appropriate development can then be taught in small and manageable steps involving both simple and complex tasks that address specific goals. For example, a program specialist can focus on having a child echo vocal sounds or participate in a full conversation, depending on the learner's needs. These programs typically require several hours a week of both structured and child-initiated learning activities to successfully reinforce positive behavior and social interactions. With applied behavior analysis treatment program staff also train family members to support their child's growth for skills at home. Each learner's progress is continuously measured and reviewed to identify any problem areas and ensure that desirable and lasting skills are developing properly.