How Does Behavioral Learning Benefit Children with Autism?

Aspiring special education teachers have likely heard that behavioral learning is used to educate children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) is a growing educational approach focused on increasing positive and socially acceptable behaviors. Typically developing children can learn playing and social skills without intervention. But, children with autism have mild to severe brain development delays that make social interaction much more difficult to learn.

Resource: 101 Curricula and Resources for Homeschooling Children with Autism

A new government survey found that one in every 45 children between ages 3 and 17 in the United States have been diagnosed with autism. There’s a strong need for early behavioral learning intervention to help autistic youth acquire the same life skills children usually learn “naturally.” ABA uses behavioral learning theory to create a structured environment where children diagnosed with ASD can bloom.

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Behavioral Learning Strategies

Behavioral learning utilizes a variety of teaching techniques to inspire meaningful, positive changes in behavior for children with autism and other disabilities. Successful ABA interventions don’t follow a one-size-fits-all approach. Positive reinforcement is a major strategy in which a favorable reward is presented following an appropriate behavior. Studies have shown that immediate positive reinforcement strengthens behaviors and makes them more frequent. Modeling is another important strategy that involves demonstrating a target behavior and having the child imitate it. Peer training can be used to teach students without disabilities how to interact with children with autism. Story-based behavioral learning, where students write short descriptions of social situations and proper behaviors, is also popular.

Benefits of Behavioral Learning for Autism

According to Autism Speaks, effective behavioral learning programs typically include at least 25 hours of treatment per week. Children with autism can benefit greatly from this intensive, ongoing intervention. Students are often able to develop skills that allow them to independently participate in general education classrooms. Behavior learning is linked to improved social language, better communication skills, and more peer interaction or social play. On the academic side, autistic children can develop greater focus, increased class participation, and enhanced motor development. Teachers are able to reduce challenging behaviors and replace them with more appropriate behaviors. Families benefit from learning effective strategies to facilitate their child’s new social skills too.

Qualifications to Provide Behavioral Learning

If you’re interested in treating children with autism using behavioral learning interventions, you’ll need to become board certified. First, start by earning an accredited bachelor’s degree in special education, psychology, counseling, or a related field. Gain experience working in the classroom environment with children with ASD. Forging ahead to graduate school is then required. Many universities now grant master’s programs in applied behavior analysis. Last but not least, you can apply for certification through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). To sit for the exam, you must have at least 1,500 hours of supervised work experience through practica and internships. Electronic multiple-choice exams are delivered at testing centers nationwide.

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Overall, behavioral learning is often conducted in public schools, private schools, intervention agencies, childcare centers, and independent practices to help children with autism. Although there’s no cure for ASD, behavior learning can be useful in correcting maladaptive behaviors associated with the disability. ABA intervention practices strongly focus on honing the social and communicative skills needed in academia and beyond. Receiving behavioral learning early in their diagnosis can significantly aid children with autism in leading full, productive lives later.