Applied behavioral analysts help adults and children with autism and their families. In this career, you’ll work 1-on-1 or in a small group to model appropriate behaviors, discourage anti-social actions and help people with autism integrate into the neurotypical world. You’ll use evidence-based strategies that you learn through formal education or vocational training. If you want to apply behavioral modification techniques to adult patients, you’ll need specialized, population-specific training.

What Is Applied Behavioral Analysis?

People with autism don’t always understand how they should behave in community settings. They may get in trouble or struggle to make friends and not know how to change their behavior. Applied Behavioral Analysis, or ABA, uses proven psychological techniques like positive reinforcement to help people with autism modify their reactions to the world. Therapists usually work intensely with patients and provide consistent feedback to help create appropriate actions. You might roleplay classroom scenarios, tell stories about fictional characters responding to events or recruit neurotypical peers to model behavior to your patient.

What Qualifications Do Applied Behavioral Analysts Need?

To start working as an applied behavioral analyst, you need a passion for helping others, a strong sense of patience and a high level of emotional intelligence. There is such a high demand for behavioral analysts that many agencies will provide on-the-job training to anyone willing to work with them. A bachelor’s degree in psychology, social work or human services can help you advance quickly and have a deeper understanding of the techniques you need. You can work as an applied behavioral analysts helping adults or children while you’re in school; some agencies even offer tuition assistance to their staff.

Do Applied Behavioral Analysts Work with Adults?

Although the majority of ABA is done with young children, analysts are starting to work with adults with autism as well. Researchers have found that ABA can help adults learn specific skills, like how to dine in a restaurant, shop for clothing or use public transportation. Helping adults learn new behaviors can be rewarding if the person with autism is invested in changing themselves. It can also be challenging to overcome years of conditioning. If you want to be an applied behavioral therapist who works with adults with autism, you’ll need to be extremely patient.

What Are Some Applied Behavioral Techniques Used for Adult Patients

Not every technique used with children will work well with adults. You need to modify your therapy to address the unique mental and psychosocial needs of older patients. That means meeting with the adult patient to learn what behaviors they are interested in improving, creating engaging lesson plans with age-appropriate stories and providing ways to express frustrations in a healthy and mature manner. You can pursue specialized training to in lifespan development, cognitive psychology and adult pedagogy to learn how to be a good applied behavioral analysts for adults.

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Applied behavioral therapies can open a new world of possibilities to patients. You’ll appreciate seeing first-hand how applied behavioral analysts help adults with autism as you see the progress your clients will make.