Are you trying to learn about ABA therapy as a form of treatment for autism? If so, you're in the right place.
When you're done reading this article, you will know what ABA therapy entails and how to determine if it's the right treatment for your autistic son or daughter.
What is ABA therapy?
ABA therapy stands for applied behavior analysis, and it is considered to be the most effective way to manage and minimize the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
ABA therapy revolves around the concept of positive reinforcement. Simply put, it entails using rewards (such as candy and toys) to incentivize an autistic boy or girl to follow desirable behaviors.
As an example, when the TV volume is too loud, a desirable habit would be for the autistic kid to ask an adult to turn down the TV volume instead of getting agitated or throwing objects at the screen.
Over time, children with ASD learn how to act in a desirable and socially-acceptable way without being incentivized by a reward. This happens gradually as your son or daughter continues to attend ABA sessions on a regular basis.
How do I know if ABA therapy is right for my child?
On most occasions, primary care providers will refer you to an ABA therapist when they believe that your kid has some of the common signs of autism.
After that, the ABA therapist conducts a thorough assessment and screens your child for ASD symptoms.
Symptoms of Autism
You want to take your son or daughter for an autism assessment if they develop one or more of the following signs:
- Difficulty with communicating their feelings and talking about their emotions.
- Doesn't make eye contact and avoids smiling back.
- Doesn't respond when his or her name is called.
- Engages in tasks and activities that may lead them to hurt themselves.
- Firmly follows a daily schedule, up to the point where they get angry or sad when their routine changes.
- Interpreting phrases (like "break a leg") in a literal way and taking them too seriously.
- Making movements or saying phrases in a very repetitive manner.
- Obsessing with and getting overly interested in activities, objects, and/or subjects that they like.
- Physical coordination problems and irregular bodily movements.
- Struggling to socialize or make friends (in fact, many kids with ASD would prefer to be alone rather than engage with others).
If your son or daughter is displaying any of these autism symptoms, you want to take them in for an assessment as soon as possible.
This way, in the event that they get diagnosed with ASD, you can get them the help that they need right away.
When should my child start ABA therapy?
In short, the sooner that your child starts ABA therapy, the better. After all, your kid's life will be much easier when they learn how to control and manage their symptoms from a young age.
Here are some of the main benefits to undergoing ABA therapy at an early point:
- A higher likelihood that the child will successfully form and enhance critical developmental skills.
- The kid learns how to take care of their health and well-being from the time that they're really young.
- They learn how to make friends at an early life stage, which is arguably among the top 10 reasons children with autism deserve ABA.
- Parents can identify the most effective parenting techniques for their son or daughter and work on establishing a healthy parent-child relationship when the latter is still a little kid.
- Autistic boys and girls become fully capable of taking care of themselves well before their parents get older and can no longer assist them.
- It minimizes and/or prevents issues that could impact the child's school performance.
- You can set up a long-term academic and career plan for your son or daughter while they're in elementary school or younger.
- If the cost of the ABA sessions is a problem, an early start gives you enough time to look for support and obtain financial assistance.
- Problematic habits and developmental delays may be identified and addressed before they turn into bigger and challenging issues.
- Their IQ score could go up, even more so when their ABA treatment is initiated at a young age.
Another indirect benefit to early ABA treatment is that it allows your son or daughter to get the extensive and longer sessions out of the way sooner.
How long does ABA therapy last?
The overall duration of your child's applied behavior analysis treatment and the length of each session are based on various factors.
Most kids attend ABA sessions for about 1 to 3 years. It goes without saying that those with severe autism symptoms and/or complex needs may have to undergo treatment for a relatively longer period.
Many autistic children take on daily sessions, which add up to between 25 and 40 hours per week.
In general, the following aspects will influence the length and duration of your kid's ABA treatment:
- Their strengths, weaknesses, and needs
- The child's goals, including their academic, social, physical, and personal objectives.
- The severity of the patient's ASD symptoms.
- How well the boy or girl responds to the treatment.
- The amount of time it takes for the child to get comfortable with ABA.
- How long it takes the therapist to identify the best techniques for helping your son or daughter.
Keep in mind that, even after your child completes their ABA program, you still have to work on managing their symptoms and potentially enrolling them in other forms of treatment.
What do I do after my child stops ABA therapy?
When your child stops attending ABA sessions, you must have certain strategies in place to help them adapt.
First of all, consider putting together a transition plan with their therapist. This could be done through having them slowly reduce their weekly ABA hours and working on implementing some of the treatment methods at home.
Secondly, make sure that your child stays engaged and challenged emotionally, socially, academically, and physically.
This is attained by communicating with them regularly, collaborating with their school teachers, and participating in activities that enhance the kid's motor and coordination skills.
Lastly, but certainly not least, is to consider other autism treatments that your boy or girl can attend once they conclude their ABA sessions.
Here, you want to focus on the treatments that improve your child's weaknesses, enable them to attain their goals, minimize the problematic ASD symptoms, and, above all, build on the ABA techniques that were the most effective and beneficial for your child.