While there is no known cure for autism, autism is treatable and a variety of therapies exist to help minimize symptoms. Autism can impact a child in many ways: communication, eye contact, social skills, emotional regulation, and behavior are frequently affected. Such challenges can lead to difficulties accomplishing independent developmental tasks, navigating social situations, and remaining in the general education setting. Autism research points to the effectiveness of behavioral therapy as one of themost effective interventions for children with an autism spectrum disorder.
What is Applied Behavioral Analysis?
Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy (ABA) is often the most recommended therapy for a child who has been newly diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.ABA is a behavioral intervention that aims to assist a child with developing essential skills related to social interaction, communication, and self care through the use of positive reinforcement. Children are taught various concepts through play-based activities and tasks, then rewarded for responding with positive behavior. Treatment goals range from encouraging meaningful play (reciprocal play), to enhancing communication. Some children with autismhave difficulty expressing themselves effectively and appropriately. ABA therapy teaches important communication skills such as requesting versus demanding and conversational turn taking.Other common treatment goals include developing a self care routine(eating neatly, brushing teeth, toilet training, etc.) and working towards independence on various tasks. ABA is most often the starting point for the treatment of autism, as it creates foundational building blocks for the child to utilize when participating in other therapies such as speech or occupational therapy. ABA therapy is effective in supporting the child through various developmental stages. It’s often started when the child is a toddler and then goals are continually modified to match the child’s changing developmental needs.
How does ABA work?
Most often, children and parents receive ABAsupport from a Behavior Interventionist in the family home setting. Not only is this a convenient option for the parent, but ensures consistent weekly participation and practice of treatment goals. Another benefit of ABA therapy is observing the child in his/her natural environment, which allows the Behavioral Interventionistto observe the child within their family dynamic but also to effectively work on developmental skills such as feeding, toilet training, and other self help skills. Parents are usually encouraged to observe or participate in their child’s session, in order to understand the goals their child is working on and learn the necessary skills to support their child in practicing tasks between sessions. Once a task has been mastered “in-home” it’s common for ABA therapists to take the child and parent on community outings to practice the task in a public setting, which enables the child to generalize the new task. ABA service time depends on the severity of theautism spectrum disorder and the age of the child. Some children only require three hours per week, while other receive upwards of 40 hours per week. A typical amount of ABA support is usually about six hours per week. Once a child has reached school age, in-home support might be reduced in order to accommodate the child’s academic support needs. Children with autism are provided with free IEPs(Individualized Education Plan) and Behavior Intervention is usually a typical service available to children with autism.
Who can practice ABA?
Behavior Interventionists work with children, adolescents, and occasionally adults with developmental disabilities to facilitate positive behaviors and to decrease negative, unhealthy, or destructive behavior. Behavior Interventionists may work in many settings such as a community clinic, in the client’s home, or in schools. Behavioral Interventionists work directly with the child and also build relationships with the parents, teachers, and any other treatment provider in the child’s life. Most Behavioral Interventionists understand the importance of collaboration between treatment providers and will often develop goals related to behavior and social interactions that may be worked on in a variety of settings. Behavior Interventionists must possess a bachelors degree. Supervisors of Behavior Interventionists are called Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) and have completed a masters degree, supervised experience, and have passed a certification exam.
Accessing ABA Therapy
Children with autism (ages 0-3) are entitled to free early intervention behavioral therapy services (in-home intervention) though the San Diego Regional Center. School aged children are also able to access free behavioral intervention support services through their IEP (Individualized Education Plan).Another option for ABA therapy includes private therapy through a clinic. Some insurance plans cover private ABA therapy, if a child has a documented diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder. If you are interested in learning more about options for accessing ABA therapy for your child with autism we would encourage you to contact the OAS Center for more information at 619-431-5049. The Autism Speaks (auitismspeaks.org) and theSan Diego Regional Center (sdrc.org) websites offer great support to parents and both websites are easy to navigate. We would also encourage you to contact the OAS Centerat 619-431-5049 for more information.