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How Do Applied Behavior Analysts Help with Developmental Delays?

As one of the only treatment models proven to be consistently effective for addressing developmental delays, applied behavior analysis (ABA) is an irreplaceable tool in therapeutic and educational environments. ABA therapy is characterized by adherence to scientific structure and methodology, which necessitates control, quantification, and review. Even though it’s considered an evidence-based approach, ABA practitioners still enjoy a wide range of options and a great degree of flexibility when they design customized treatment programs for each patient.

Related resource: 40 Best Applied Behavior Analysis Graduate Certificate Online Programs

Breaking Communications Barriers

Developmental delays and disabilities are often characterized by difficulty with interpersonal communication. An aversion or inability to hold conversation is often the first noticeable sign of communication problems, but they can also manifest as challenges with reading or writing skills. Applied behavior analysts leverage their experience and training to break through various kinds of communication barriers commonly found in people with developmental disorders. This is essential for building trust with patients and establishing a stable foundation to start building new skills.

Patient-Centered Treatment Programs

There are dozens of different kinds of developmental delays, which is why the flexible and customized approach of conventional ABA is particularly effective. While it is recognized as the most reliable therapy for children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it can also be tailored for many other developmental disabilities, according to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). Building programs around the exact nature of a delay or disorder allows analysts to focus only on the goals specific to each patient.

Progressive Learning and Skill Acquisition

Behavior analysts also help individuals with developmental delays through fundamental, progressive skill acquisition. One of the defining features of ABA therapy is breaking down complex skills, problems or goals into small tasks that are immediately achievable and quantifiable. This creates a stable environment with predictable relationships between actions and consequences. Analysts can also repeat steps as many times as necessary and continue to adjust them until the individual masters the skill. Analysts can teach complex skills ranging from verbal communication to personal hygiene with this method.

Integrating Therapy into Daily Life

Even a few therapy sessions a week can produce noticeable results from children and young adults showing signs of slower development. However, limited therapy in a controlled setting is only part of the solution for most people. Behavior analysts help their patients reinforce and build towards long-term improvement by integrating ABA practices into their daily lives. Typically, this requires significant participation from parents, teachers and other important authority figures. Successful long-term therapy often hinges on integrating healthy practices into daily life at home.

For parents, learning how to identify and address developmental delays is a challenging prospect. Children learn and grow at different rates, so falling a little behind doesn’t necessarily indicate a serious problem. Effective therapy requires an accurate diagnosis, so this should always be a priority before seeking advanced treatment for a potential disorder. For those who do receive a formal diagnosis, there are plenty of ways that applied behavior analysts can help people of all ages manage and overcome the impact of developmental delays.