If your child is diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder or has experienced behavioral difficulties in school, you have probably heard of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy.
ABA therapy is a specific type of therapy that has been found helpful in improving behaviors, supporting learning, and improving outcomes for children struggling with a variety of issues. Unfortunately, understanding and locating the appropriate ABA provider for your child can be difficult.
We are going to help you by explaining the specifics of ABA therapy and by looking at the best option for ABA therapy in the Greater Atlanta Area.
What is ABA Therapy?
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) focuses on improving particular behaviors. ABA therapy may be used to help your child build social skills, learn to read, or improve any number of life skills. ABA has been effectively used with children struggling with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
An ABA therapist will work with you and your child to:
- Identify which of your child’s behaviors need to be changed.
- Develop individual goals and set expected outcomes that are specific to your child’s needs.
- Identify ways to measure your child’s improvements.
- Determine your child’s baseline. This will let you know where your child is starting from.
- Support your child in learning new skills and/or how to avoid problem behaviors.
- Help you learn to support your child’s learning and improved behaviors.
- Review your child’s progress.
- Decide if your child has other behaviors that need to improve or skills that need to be learned.
An ABA trained therapist should spend time with your child to determine his/her specific strengths and abilities as well as his/her challenges with doing a functional behavior assessment (FBA). The therapist will make observations regarding your child’s behavior, his/her communication skills, and his/her communication level. It is this assessment that will be the basis for the work your child will do in therapy.
What to Look for in an ABA Therapist:
You will want to look for an ABA therapist that is licensed or an ABA clinic that hires licensed ABA therapists. A licensed ABA therapist is a clinical therapist with additional experience and training in applied behavioral analysis.
You will notice that ABA therapists with a master’s degree, ABA training, and board certification will be identified with the initials BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) following their name.
Therapists with a doctorate degree will be identified by the initials BCBA-D.
You will also find board certified members of your ABA team that don’t hold advanced degrees. A Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) is a board certified analyst with a bachelor’s degree and additional training.
These analysts work as supportive members of an ABA team. There may also be members of your ABA team that do not hold college degrees. A BACB certified technician must hold a minimum of a high school diploma and have taken an additional 40 + hours of specialized training.
These technicians can only work under the direct supervision of an BCBA or a BCaBA. As ABA technicians must work under the supervision of a licensed provider, you want to make sure that someone on your child’s ABA team is a licensed professional.
Advantages of Home ABA Therapy:
If you have determined that ABA Therapy is right for your child, you may also want to consider whether your family would benefit from trying In-Home ABA Therapy. The goal of ABA therapy remains the same whether your child sees a therapist in a center or in your private home. ABA therapists and their team members will:
- Provide a detailed assessment of your child’s abilities. The difference here is that the ABA professional will provide the assessment in your home. Ideally, this will make the assessment more realistic as your child is being engaged in his/her home and not an unfamiliar space.
- Develop goals appropriate to your child’s needs.
- Select treatment methods with your child’s environment in mind. When you choose to use in-home ABA therapy, the therapist has the unique opportunity to engage parents and siblings in your child’s therapy in a more natural way.
In-home ABA therapy allows therapists to engage your child in the space where their behaviors are most likely to occur. In-home ABA therapy is particularly well suited for children who need support with daily living and household skills. However, in-home ABA therapy can also help your child with:
- Developing Social skills
- Improving Verbal behavior
- Learning academic information
- Learning skills that help them to be independent
- Learning skills associated with eating, self-care, toilet training, dressing, etc.
- Improving Family interactions (performing chores, eating out, shopping, etc.)
Finding ABA Therapy Services:
Your child’s pediatrician or your family physician is often where people find their ABA providers. Your doctor can help you determine if ABA therapy is right for your child and can write a prescription for this treatment if a prescription is required by your insurance provider. Your child’s school may also be able to provide you with the names of providers in your area.
If you have private insurance, your provider may be able to provide you with the name of ABA providers covered under your insurance. You will also find agencies that support individuals struggling with specific challenges offer connections to resources. For instance Autism Speaks offers information regarding ABA providers by age of the person seeking service and location.
The Best Atlanta Based ABA Therapy:
When it comes to ABA therapy in the Atlanta area, we at Hidden Talents ABA have set the standard.
We offer services for children from birth to the age of 12. Staffed by an experienced team of BCBA therapists, Hidden Talents ABA offers a wide range of treatment options. Whether you choose in-home or clinic based therapy, your child will be paired with a team of BCBA and ABA therapists. Hidden Talents follows a three step process. This includes:
○ 1) Intake: At Hidden Talents ABA a member of the intake coordination will gather the needed information to determine eligibility and request authorization for services to cover your child’s ABA therapy,
○ 2) Assessment: A Hidden Talents ABA BCBA therapist will conduct an assessment of your child’s skills and develop an individualized treatment plan taking into account your child’s school, your family, and your child’s special strengths and challenges,
○ 3) Treatment: Once the treatment plan is created, your child will be paired with a team made up of BCBA and ABA therapists to support individualized treatment for your child.
Is ABA Therapy Effective for Autism?
More than 20 studies have been performed that establish intensive long-term therapy based on ABA principles improves outcomes for many children diagnosed with autism. ABA has been identified by the US Surgeon General as an evidence-based best practice treatment. This is the gold standard for therapeutic interventions. Clinical studies show that children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) can improve their intellectual functioning, language skills, social skills, and daily living skills through the use of ABA interventions. Though there are fewer studies completed on adults with ASD, those that have been done show similar results.
In 2013, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center indicated that adding home based treatment to center-based interventions for children on the autism spectrum can improve:
- Communication skills
- Play skills
- A child’s IQ in families that experience high levels of stress.
They also found that these services can help to:
- Reduce parental levels of stress
- Reduce parental levels of depression
- Increase parental levels of satisfaction and children’s outcomes
What does an ABA Session Look Like?
Your child’s first ABA session will focus on developing an individualized plan. If you are dealing with an in-home provider you can expect an ABA professional to come to your home and meet with you and your child. The professional will meet your child where he/she is and create a plan specifically designed to meet the needs of your child. What this plan entails will depend upon your child’s age, your child’s abilities, and your child’s specific needs.
After the individualized plan is developed your ABA therapy team will work with your child toward his/her specific goals. Due to the individuality of ABA plans it is virtually impossible to tell you what a session will look like. Your child’s ABA session will be guided by his/her specific needs. If your child is working on improving communication skills, your child may be engaged in work or play with a therapist where he/she is rewarded for verbalizing emotions, identifying his/her specific needs, or naming objects. If your child is working on following a new schedule, he/she may be engaged in working through specific steps of a chore or project.
Although the specifics of your child’s ABA session will be unique, you may see any of the following interventions in your child’s ABA session:
- Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBE): EIBI is often used with children under the age of five. This intervention involves an individualized curriculum intended to teach communication skills, social interaction, increase positive behaviors, and decrease negative behaviors like tantrums and aggression toward others. This can also be used to help children reduce behaviors that can cause harm to themselves like head banging.
- Pivotal Response Training (PRT): This intervention allows your child to take the lead in a learning activity. Here you will often see the therapist offering your child a set of choices.
- Discrete Trial Training (DTT): During DTT a therapist will work with your child in a formal learning interaction. This will likely take place at a tabletop. This aspect of the session calls for formal interaction between your child and his/her therapist. The therapist will use this time to teach specific skills. Your child may be practicing a specific verbal or social skill here, and he/she will receive feedback after each attempt.
- Early Start Denver Model (ESDM): This intervention involves play-based activities and incorporated working on several goals at one time. So, don’t become too concerned if your child’s therapy session looks like fun.
How do You Qualify for ABA Therapy?
Many types of private health insurance cover ABA services. To find out if your private health insurance covers ABA therapy services, you will want to contact your provider. Some providers will require a medical doctor to prescribe this therapy. Your family care provider or your child’s pediatrician will be the best person to speak to regarding whether or not your child can benefit from ABA therapy.
If your child is covered under Medicaid, you will find that all medically necessary treatments are covered for children under the age of 21. This means that so long as your child’s doctor prescribes ABA therapy for your child, Medicaid is required to cover the costs of this treatment.
Questions To Ask Your ABA Provider:
Of course, you are going to have a wide array of questions but here are a few you may want to consider asking:
- How much parent participation do you encourage/allow?
- How much training will I be provided?
- Will I be participating in sessions with my child?
- What will I be expected to implement outside of therapy to support my child’s progress?
- Are your analysts board certified?
- Is your staff required to attend ongoing training and workshops?
- What kind of training does your direct-level staff have before working with my child?
- What therapy services do you offer?
- What services do you offer to families?
- Do you provide group sessions to help children work on their social skills?
- What size are your groups?
- How will my child’s progress be monitored?
- How often will changes be made to my child’s treatment plan?
How Long Should ABA Therapy Last?
As with the question related to what an ABA session looks like, the answer to this question varies widely. ABA therapy can take hours each day and continue to weeks, months, or years. Although one behavior may be tackled and resolved positively, your child may need to deal with many individual behaviors or may need to learn a number of individual skills before treatment is complete.
There are several elements that can impact the amount of time your child spends in ABA therapy. Thing that impact the amount of time your child may spend in ABA therapy include:
- The behavior you are seeking to change or the skill your child needs to learn will have a huge impact on the amount of time ABA therapy can be expected to take. If your child requires ABA therapy to learn to read or write, he/she will generally spend more time in ABA therapy than if he/she needs to learn to follow a new schedule.
- Family Involvement has a large impact on the amount of time your child may spend in ABA therapy. The support of family members can decrease the amount of time your child spends in ABA therapy. However, if the family doesn’t have the time to spend reinforcing work done in therapy sessions, or if there is inconsistency in following through on therapy goals, the process can take more time.
- Insurance Coverage: Unfortunately, a large factor that influences the amount of time your child may spend in ABA therapy revolves around your insurance company. Some insurance coverage will limit the number of hours your client may spend in therapy a week. If the therapy must be parsed out, your child may ultimately spend more time in therapy as a task that could be resolved with intense therapy for a course of weeks may require more time if spread out over to accommodate a specific number of hours a week.