What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)?
Put, ABA uses the fundamental principles of learning to teach people the skills they need for a full life.
ABA is based on the science of behaviorism, first defined by BF Skinner in the 1930s. Over the past century, it has grown to become a highly effective way of treating autism.
ABA operates on a few fundamental principles (though each of these concepts can become highly technical). The first is the principle of reinforcement. Reinforcement is the idea that any rewarding behavior occurs more, and any behavior that doesn’t get rewarded stops happening.
Another principle is motivation. In ABA, we use motivation to encourage kids to learn. All parents commonly practice this; if you want to eat ice cream, you must eat your peas first. If you’re going to get a good grade, you have to study. Focusing the child’s attention on what motivates them can encourage them to do the harder (but sometimes less fun) work of learning.
What does ABA teach?
There is nearly an infinite number of possibilities in ABA. ABA can be used to teach kids the following, among other things:
- talk and communicate
- socialize and make friends
- care for themselves
- use the toilet independently
- sleep on their own
- regulate their emotions
- stop hurting themselves
- eat a variety of foods
- and many more!
How does ABA work?
Any good ABA program begins with an assessment. A board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA) will talk with the parents to learn more about the child, conduct some testing, and review medical and school records. Then they put together a plan that describes the child’s strengths and needs, and goals they should work on.
After the assessment, therapy begins. ABA therapy is highly individualized to your child, meaning every child’s therapy program will look different. Typically, kids will have multiple goals they’re working on, like communication, social, behavioral, self-care, etc.
Also, if you talk to any behavior therapist, you’ll find that they talk a LOT about data. Data is the backbone of a good ABA program, and all client progress is tracked and adapted based on how the client is doing according to the data. At SOAR, you’ll see our therapists on their iPads frequently collecting data.
Your child will be re-evaluated every six months (at a minimum), and their goals will be updated.
How does ABA work with other therapies?
ABA works excellent with other therapies. At SOAR, we support collaboration and coordination with Speech, OT, schools, and any other treatments your child may be involved in. In many cases, we can even provide ABA simultaneously and in the same place as other therapies. ABA intends to be a significant part of your child’s treatment, but not the only factor. We may ask to schedule regular meetings and consultation sessions with your child’s other providers.
All good ABA programs should work nicely with other (scientifically validated) therapies. By involving your child in all necessary treatments, you’ll maximize their chance to thrive.
How much does ABA cost?
ABA is almost always covered by medical insurance. If you have Medicaid, it’s free! You’ll be responsible for any deductibles or copays per your insurance plan requirements if you have private insurance.
At SOAR, we don’t limit the number of Medicaid patients we take. We believe firmly in accepting all people regardless of income or socioeconomic status.
Where does ABA happen?
ABA can be done at home, in a clinical setting, community, or school. The location of services will vary depending on your child’s specific needs and where your treatment team deems it most beneficial for them. The goal of any good ABA program is to teach kids the skills they need where they most need them. Sometimes this will require more intensive work in a clinical setting; other times, it will require work at home.