If your child has autism or you have concerns that your child might have autism, it can be scary. No parent would like to see his child suffer from any disorder. Acquiring autism spectrum disorder becomes frightening as it has no treatment. The child has to live with this disorder throughout life.
Autism is not a disease but a neurodevelopmental condition that affects the brain. It impairs the communication of the person with ASD.
Causes of Autism
No definite and proven evidence shows how autism spectrum disorder develops. Some studies point out that both genes and the environment play a role. Some researchers have argued that autism tends to run in families.
Your understanding of autism becomes crucial for helping your child. Early detection diagnosis and use of available treatment and therapies should start immediately. Once you notice any unusual behavior or development, consult the doctor for proper analysis. The earlier you start with the treatment better the chances of helping the child improve autism-related symptoms.
Assessment and Symptoms of Autism
Early identification has significant positive outcomes for children with ASD. You can notice symptoms by 18 months of age or earlier also. If you have any concerns about your child, you can look for the following early signs:
- delay in spoken language
- Repetitive use of words or sentences
- Limited or no eye contact when you feed or talk
- Lack of interest when with other kids
- Persistent fixation on parts of objects
- No interest or poor response when you call by name
- No imitation of your actions or words
- Unusual movements or flapping of hands
- Lack of gestures in pointing directions or expressing something
You should help your child with ASD to get appropriate treatment. ASD is a spectrum disorder, so every child has a varying intensity of symptoms and challenges. The treatment should begin after a careful assessment to determine the child’s specific strengths and needs.
Need for Evidenced-Based Interventions
Identifying effective medical and behavioral treatments for ASD is vital to positive and effective outcomes. The behavioral and other interventions should have proven and solid scientific evidence.
Your child will need therapy to improve social, communication, and learning skills.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a widely used and effective intervention therapy for people with an autism spectrum disorder. ABA intervention has significant scientific evidence of its effectiveness in ASD.
We will see the significance and role of ABA in reducing the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder in this article.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy involves techniques and processes based on the science of human behavior. ABA therapy is a systematic method to observe, measure, and describe behavior. Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a scientifically proven, research-based, and data-driven therapy. It increases desired behaviors to improve skills and get positive outcomes.
ABA has its foundation in the belief that when a reward or appreciation follows behavior, the probability of repeating that behavior increases. ABA intervention encourages positive behavior change over some time.
The goal of any ABA program is to make the person with ASD more independent and successful.
How Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Works
ABA therapy focuses on a wide range of symptoms of ASD. Therapy individualizes the care process to meet the needs of the person with ASD. During ABA therapy, there is regular monitoring of the person’s behavior, collecting data, and making systematic changes during treatment. The therapy delivers positive changes.
Applied behavior analysis is a flexible intervention therapy that involves many techniques for understanding and changing behavior. ABA is flexible therapy because:
- You can modify it to meet the unique needs of each person
- You can provide ABA in different locations – at home, at school, and in the community
- You can use ABA in one-to-one teaching or group instruction
The process of Implementing ABA Therapy involves two main steps:
1. Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is a vital concept in behavior analysis (ABA) therapy.
The person is more likely to repeat a behavior if you reward the behavior. It helps develop the targeted skill.
The therapist identifies a goal behavior first.
If the person uses that behavior/skill successfully, they get a meaningful reward. Reward encourages the person to repeat or use that skill again. After some time, the repetition of this process helps develop that skill or behavior.
2. Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence
Understanding what happens before a behavior occurs (antecedents) and what happens after the behavior (consequences) is the second step in implementing the ABA program.
We can teach and understand the behavior with the following three steps (A-B-C)
- Antecedents can be verbal, physical, or something else in the environment. It may come from a person, the environment, or be internal emotion/feeling.
- Behavior (result) is the response or lack of response by the person to the antecedent. Response/behavior can be an action, a verbal reply, or something else.
- Consequence follows behavior. It can be the positive reinforcement of the desired behavior or no reaction for incorrect/inappropriate response to the antecedent.
This process will help you to understand:
- Why a particular behavior is happening
- How different consequences can help you conclude how the behavior is acquired.
Types of ABA Strategies
There are different strategies in ABA Therapy. Some examples of ABA strategies are:
1. Discrete Trial Training (DTT)
Also called “Lovaas therapy”, DTT is a behavioral learning theory and applied behavior analysis.
In a discrete trial teaching strategy, the therapist breaks skills into smaller components and teaches those smaller sub-skills individually. The therapist rewards the learner with ASD with positive reinforcement for correct behavior.
The therapist provides a stimulus to the person with ASD. When the person gives, he receives a consequence (e.g., a reward).
DTT involves errorless learning and reinforcement to encourage skill acquisition.
2. Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)
Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) therapy is a play-based intervention for kids 12 to 48 months of age. ESDM helps kids to learn the language, cognitive, and social skills.
You can implement ESDM in different natural settings like home, daycare, or preschool. The trained therapists and parents can implement the therapy within the play and daily routines.
ESDM encourages the person to interact with peers, caregivers, therapists, and parents. The positive rewards help the child learn to communicate and socialize more effectively.
3. Pivotal Response Training:
The main goals are for children to start conversations with others, increase their motivation to learn, and monitor their behavior.
Pivotal response Training (PRT) therapy systematically applies the scientific principles of ABA. The focus of PRT therapy is to help children initiate conversation, increase motivation to learn, and monitor their progress.
Pivotal response training improves the learning variables of motivation. It enhances responses to multiple cues, self-management, and self-initiation for the person with ASD. PRT influences target behaviors within a natural setting.
The effectiveness of PRT in enhancing motivation and improving language and play skills has a research base and practices.
4. Functional Communication Training (FCT)
Functional communication training (FCT) is a behavioral methodology to replace disruptive behavior. It helps develop appropriate and effective communication in person with ASD by replacing inappropriate behavior.
First, with the help of functional behavior analysis, the communicative “functions” of disruptive behaviors are understood. Then the therapist teaches socially appropriate behaviors as replacements for problem behaviors.
FCT has strongly backed by research and trials. The intervention is effective with young children with limited cognitive and language skills.
5. Antecedent-Based Interventions
In applying ABA techniques, it is necessary to set up antecedent conditions that increase the chances of success and reduce the occurrence and probability of problem behaviors.
Choice, cueing and prompting, modifying task demands, and time delay are used frequently in antecedent procedures for ASD.
Benefits and Drawbacks of ABA
- Research shows ABA helps to develop behavioral skills.
- ABA teaches both simple and complex skills
- ABA enables parents to implement strategies for teaching children at home
- ABA proves that kids with autism have ability and capability to learn and modify behaviors
Critics argue that ABA therapy is harsh for autistic individuals. Some criticism of ABA are:
- ABA focuses only on behavior problems rather than developing skills
- ABA therapy focuses on making kids normal, conveying their current behaviors are wrong
- ABA has a limited approach to what it can teach, doesn’t build emotional skills
When to Stop ABA Therapy
As per the Council of Autism Service Providers, you should review or stop ABA therapy in the following instances:
- When the person with ASD has achieved the target goals
- If the patient doesn’t meet the criteria for autism.
- If there is no progress in reducing the symptoms over several periods.
- If the parents and provider fail to resolve crucial issues related to the treatment plan.
ABA is evidence-based therapy. It has research data to support its effectiveness. But for some, it may not be helpful. Discuss with the doctor or therapist any concerns to decide and how you can transition to another treatment.
Highly structured treatment programs based on applied behavior analysis (ABA) principles are the gold standard for early autism treatment. Research shows that ABA therapy is supportive in reinforcing desired behaviors in people with ASD. The therapy helps people live independently.
Applied behavior Analysis (ABA) is a proven approach to teaching a range of skills to autistic children. Research data shows that ABA has considerable positive effects on autistic children’s communication, cognitive, and behavior skills.