Home Featured Articles How ABA Helps Children with Autism Learn

How ABA Helps Children with Autism Learn

Recovery From Autism ABAOne of the most common interventions used to treat and teach children with autism is a program commonly referred to as ABA.  The acronym stands for Applied Behavioral Analysis, which in itself is a comprehensive theory that directly applies the scientific analysis of behavior.  An autism specific program, based on discrete trial training, is also typically called ABA and is an intensive modality used to teach children with autism.

There are over 500 published studies discussing the effectiveness of ABA to teach children with autism. Many people describe ABA as a system to teach children how to learn.  There are various components and teaching methods within ABA, discrete trial training being only one of them.  Behavioral specialists and therapists utilize a variety of methods and techniques.

ABA is conducted near 40 hours per week by a team of trained and experienced professionals.  Programs are designed upon the findings of assessments and are implemented in a sequential order using predetermined teaching methods and materials.  Substantial data is collected prior to implementation and during therapy, so programs can be modified and adjusted as children progress.

The goals and skills focused upon will be individual to each child’s program and take into account a child’s ability, strengths, sensory needs and behavioral characteristics at a minimum. Another goal is generalizing skills learned, meaning the child can apply the skill across settings.

Common goals for children with autism are establishing and increasing eye contact, sitting down in a chair to attend to a task, and other skills which are broken down and taught in small segments, such as putting a puzzle together.

Parents are part of the therapy team and goals they have for their children are also part of the planning process. ABA teaches skills that build upon each other to avoid leaving gaps in development.  To do this, each skill is broken down into many small steps and those steps are mastered in order.  

Beyond specific skills being taught during discrete trials, parents and professionals take advantage of natural opportunities to teach. For example, a child may be working on how to greet people. The best way to master and generalize this skill would be to provide the child opportunity to practice saying ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’.  Like any skill, repetition will eventually equate to mastery.

In addition to regimented programming, there are behavioral strategies that also help children with autism. Positive reinforcement is a phrase commonly used when discussing behavioral strategies as they relate to children with autism.  In short, positive reinforcement rewards desired behavior and ignores unwanted behavior.  The applications of this practice are nearly endless.

During discrete trial training, when the child correctly responds to the therapist, they are immediately rewarded with something especially motivating to them.  This can be anything from verbal praise to a tangible item or sensory play. In a classroom setting, children can earn free-time or other rewards after completing a task or listening throughout the day; this is also positive reinforcement.  Children respond well to having their efforts and achievements rewarded and will begin to change existing behaviors and learn appropriate replacement behaviors.

ABA is considered by some to be standard treatment for autism.  Based on years of research supporting its effectiveness, ABA style programming certainly helps children with autism learn and develop in many areas.  The practices and theories of ABA can be used across environments and levels of ability, making it an ideal program.

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Disclaimer: The information provided at Recovery From Autism (RFA) is for informational purposes only. The faculty of RFA is not providing medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and cannot replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. (Full Disclaimer)