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Is Applied Behavior Analysis Only for Small Children?

Applied behavior analysis is a popular form of non-invasive treatment for small children with mental health concerns, particularly for children with autism or related disorders. Its effectiveness in treating a variety of disorders on the autistic spectrum is supported by the results of hundreds of studies. However, this success rate can serve to undermine its effectiveness in other areas, as some people have come to understand that applied behavior analysis is intended exclusively for small children. Even students of developmental psychology, including some who are looking to enter into the field in a specialized capacity, are often surprised by the breadth of ABA’s scope in treating adults.

Applied Behavior Analysis for Small Children

ABA was the first non-invasive therapeutic treatment to be widely recognized as achieving high levels of success with autistic patients, including children. The focus of ABA is on addressing the specific needs of the patient, rather than treating the condition; given our generally poor understanding of what causes autism, it is generally perceived as being the only viable overall approach in autism therapy. Patients are approached through their specific needs, their preferences, and their interests, while professionals help them to develop coping strategies which enable them to form healthy social relationships within their socio-cultural framework.

Recent Advancements in Developmental Psychology

More and more, neuroscientists and psychiatric professionals are given to an understanding that the human brain continues to develop, in stages, throughout the entirety of our lifespans. These phases of development can influence those which come later, but are also inherently distinct. They are not only biological, but are socio-cultural, based upon widespread perception of how people at certain points in their lives are “expected to behave.” Without successful childhood intervention, autism and other disruptive behaviors can affect further psychological development in adults, who may subsequently be benefited by treatment with ABA.

Applied Behavior Analysis for Adults

Adults with autism may benefit from different approaches taken through the primary philosophy of applied behavior analysis. This may even be true in adults who did not respond to ABA as children, because autistic people also continue to develop throughout their lives. Some individuals may develop their own coping strategies, which provide enough of a foothold for future efforts at ABA-oriented therapy to experience greater success. Applied behavior analysis is used to treat other disorders in adults, too; in the case of adult patients, this is more common than in children, where it is most popular as a form of autism therapy. The development of coping strategies, and of individually-focused methods for approaching people and social relationships through personal interests, is widely applicable to the world of today’s adult.

Related Resource: Top 20 Best Applied Behavior Analysis Programs

More Information on the Practical Applications of ABA

Many areas of concern which are common among adults have been successfully treated through applied behavior analysis. These include addictive behaviors, such as the desire to quit smoking, to stop drinking, or to lose weight. ABA is gaining popularity as an effective and non-invasive form of treatment for addiction, helping addicts cease the use of illegal drugs, along with a wide variety of unhealthy habits which are often strongly associated with chronic drug use. Applied behavior analysis for small children is a highly effective way of treating various childhood disorders, but this is by no means the full breadth of ABA’s scope.