How Does Applied Behavior Analysis Differ From Other Types of Therapy?

Although applied behavior analysis has been around for a while now, many still wonder how applied behavior analysis differs from other types of therapy. Not all therapies are created equal, and each type of therapy is used for different purposes. Applied behavior analysis has been proven to be quite successful for patients with autism spectrum disorder, but it’s also used for many other behavioral issues. Here is some information on applied behavior analysis as well as how it differs from other types of therapy.

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What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Also referred to as behavioral treatment or behavioral intervention, applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a teaching program that consists of lessons that are broken down into their simplest forms. A child may be presented with a simple stimulus like “touch the ball”. If the child touches the ball, the child is rewarded with lots of praise and positive reinforcement. If the child does not touch the ball, the behavior is ignored. The request continues until the child does what is asked and is praised.

As the therapy continues over time, the rewards increase. For instance, the child may initially be rewarded with praise or hugs but later is rewarded with his or her favorite food. This type of training continues and is used to help the child improve social and behavioral skills. ABA treatment is typically individualized or customized for each individual. Every child is different, so every treatment program is created to meet the needs of that child.

How Applied Behavior Analysis Differs From Other Types of Therapy

Applied behavior analysis may be a type of therapy but it differs from other types of therapies. Most therapies involve counseling to determine why the person does what he or she does and what it has to do with how the person was raised, etc. For instance, if a child is seeing a therapist for repeated stealing, the therapist might counsel the patient to see what their life was like growing up or delve into the patient’s background to see what makes the patient steal. The therapist will also try to change the person’s outlook, opinions or reasoning.

Applied behavior analysis doesn’t focus on the person near as much as it focuses on the behavior. The goal of ABA treatment is not to change the person but to change the behavior. ABA therapy relies heavily on the reward system to encourage the patient to have good behavior until the good behavior becomes a pattern or a way of life. ABA treatment may be done at school, at home or at a medical facility. The treatment may also be done by ABA specialists, teachers, and even family members. The key to ABA treatment is to be consistent with the treatment at all times.

Related Resource: The Benefits of ABA and Occupational Therapy

Career Outlook for ABA Specialists

Applied behavior analysts are very much in demand not just to treat autistic patients but also to treat many other patients with behavior disorders. Occupational therapists are expected to see an employment growth of 24 percent during the 2016-2026 decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to a July report by PayScale, applied behavior analysts earned an average annual wage of $55,870. Factors like training, certification, years of experience and location can all affect the wages of an applied behavior analyst.