Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a practical technique developed from basic psychological principles that is used to shape various human behaviors. Since its development in the 20th century, it has become known as an effective treatment protocol for children suffering from an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This technique relies heavily on scientific principles, so practitioners usually focus on making measurable progress through repeatable actions. ABA offers many potential benefits to kids diagnosed with ASD, so parents should carefully consider participating in approved programs after speaking with a professional psychologist.
Signs of Autism in Children
Perhaps the biggest challenge that parents face when it comes to ABA is actually identifying the signs of autism or a related disorder at an early age. Autism Speaks shares many different recognized symptoms of autism, which are generally defined by difficulties with social interaction and engagement in repetitive behavior. These core symptoms can produce several other related conditions as well, including hyperactivity, inability to pay attention and anxiety. All of these symptoms can compound with each other to create larger difficulties that can hinder a child’s development and psychological health.
Get a Professional Diagnosis
Parents who are concerned about their child’s psychological well-being should schedule a consultation with a licensed psychologist who is qualified to make a formal diagnosis. Since behavior analysis is the typical treatment for ASD cases, there’s a good chance a diagnosis of autism will lead to a recommendation for ABA therapy. Parents should keep a log of behavioral or learning issues prior to their consultation so they can provide accurate and ample information for a diagnosis. Psychologists may also work directly with the child in one or more sessions to confirm the possibility of ASD.
Designing a Customized Treatment Plan
Ability to customize is one of the reasons that applied behavior analysis is particularly beneficial for children. The principles of this type of treatment can be adapted to suit almost any situation, and it can easily be used alongside other techniques. Parents shouldn’t expect to see results immediately, even if there are some promising developments at the start. It can take months or even years to produce lasting results, although the rate of improvement heavily depends on the type of behavior and severity of the disorder.
Applying ABA Principles at Home
Parents aren’t expected to become professional psychologists, but they should be prepared to participate in their child’s ABA treatment. Many kids with autism disorders benefit from the application of behavior modification at home, especially if they have issues with basic domestic activities. Learning to tie shoes, put on clothes or brush teeth at appropriate times are just a few examples of activities that need to be reinforced in a home environment. A licensed psychologist and ABA practitioner can offer specific insight on how parents should apply these principles in their child’s life.
ABA revolves around the direct modification of specific behaviors, so it has potential benefits for almost anyone suffering from autism or a related disorder. Therapy can be applied in both structured and unstructured environments, including schools and the home. Parents should talk to a qualified analyst to learn more about the benefits that applied behavior analysis might have for their child.