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Written by David Seah on February 15, 2017
Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) uses a series of interventions with the intention of improving a person’s reactions to stimuli, especially in social situations. Utilizing positive reinforcement, ABA trains awareness, self-regulation and is a common form of behavioural therapy used for treating Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
People with autism and other disorders along the spectrum, even those with milder forms of the condition such as pervasive developmental disorder, often have difficulty naturally picking up on which behaviours are appropriate in a given situation, and which are not. In ABA, a child’s behaviour is reinforced with reward when they respond positively; behaviours that interfere with learning and social skills are conversely watched and put to a stop so the child becomes mindful of the negativity associated with it.
Often, unfavourable behaviours do not present themselves without a reason. Autistic children are often very sensitive to external stimuli; sudden changes to routine for example can cause feelings of overwhelm and prompt self-soothing or erratic behaviours. These may range from repetitive motions, and obsessive thinking to panic-induced screaming or even the use of violence. An important aspect of the right ABA services in Toronto will focus on learning what a person’s triggers are, and what reinforces the reactions to these triggers. For example, if a child is provided with attention upon reacting with an outburst – they may use the outburst as a tactic to fulfil a greater need, like getting the attention of a loved one. In ABA, the goal is to remove what triggers the outburst and cease the rewarding of these types of behaviours.
Furthermore, ABA uses Pivotal Response Training so that when one skill is targeted, a child learns to maneuver through multiple scenarios requiring that skill. Eventually, they implement the techniques absorbed throughout treatment and transfer them from one situation to another, developing their awareness, problem solving capabilities, and cognition.
It is important to note that ABA treatment is not the same for everyone; where one treatment plan may target language, communication and social skills, another may target motor skills and physical reactions. If a child is between the ages of 18 months and 5 years old, there are clinics that offer special programs using personalized ABA treatment as their foundation. For example, Simone Friedman SLS located in Toronto has the S.T.A.R school – taking ABA and introducing it into a naturalistic classroom setting. Children participate in this intensive for 20 hours per week (as the younger ages are when treatment for autism yields fastest results). Here, each child works toward achieving their desired goals while getting real-life, real-time practise and peer-to-peer experience. ABA treatment is also available for older children as well as adults and can take place in the home. It can be carried out by professional therapists as well as parents and teachers with the proper training. Therapy is also useful when performed in a smaller group; this can be positive for individuals who would benefit from a gentler, less spontaneous approach – however one which still encompasses that social aspect.
If your child requires extra attention in deconstructing negative patterns of behaviour – contact an ABA specialist today to see how this treatment can serve your autistic child.