Understanding ABA Therapy: A Simple Explanation of Applied Behavioral Analysis

Applied Behavior Analysis

If you are the parent or loved one of a child with Autism, you most likely have encountered the term Applied Behavioral Analysis. Maybe you came across it while conducting research on your own or during a conversation with a medical professional.

Either way, you are probably aware of its importance. ABA is, after all, a very commonly used method for aiding individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders and one that is considered by many to be highly successful. Time and time again, ABA Therapy has been praised by many Denver mental health professionals due to its considerable success.

In addition, ABA is also one of the oldest therapy methods as it has been around for decades. Scientists began developing ABA principles in the 1960’s. Since then, it has been used to treat a wide variety of human problems.

For parents who are new to the method, ABA can be a confusing topic. Not only is the practice itself highly complex, but it also tends to vary greatly from one individual to the next. ABA often looks and sounds different for every person.

However, there are some commonalities and principles that all ABA treatment plans share. In this article, we’ll discuss the general principles behind ABA and what treatment typically looks like.

An Overview of Behavioral Analysis

Behavior Analysis is a realm of science that studies human learning and behavior. According to this science, there are a set of rules, or principles, that can be used to describe how these two things take place.

Some of the principles of behavior are:

  • Behavior is a product of its environment.
  • Behavior is altered (strengthened or weakened) by its consequences.
  • Behavior responds better to positive consequences than negative consequences.
  • Whether a behavior is punished or reinforced can only be determined by the course of that behavior in the future.

Definition of ABA Therapy

ABA is short for Applied Behavioral Analysis. Essentially, it is a type of therapy that puts the science of Behavioral Analysis into action. According to Psychology Today, ABA Therapy can be defined in the following manner:

“Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a type of therapy that focuses on improving specific behaviors, such as social skills, communication, reading, and academics as well as adaptive learning skills, such as fine motor dexterity, hygiene, grooming, domestic capabilities, punctuality, and job competence.”

In other words, ABA Therapy focuses on identifying problems with an individual’s behaviors and/or learning skills and correcting or addressing any detected issues. But what exactly does this look like? Let’s take a look at some examples.

Examples of ABA Therapy

Here are some examples of ABA Therapy in action:

Example #1
A child is experiencing a deficit in communication. The child’s therapist invites him/her to go outside to play though they are barefoot. The child needs help putting on their shoes, but the therapist does not offer help and insteads waits for them to ask, prompting them to communicate. In this way, the therapist is using a naturally occurring situation to give the child practice to communicate, improving their ability to do so.

Example #2
Another example of ABA Therapy can be the use of Discrete Trial Training. A child is given the task of identifying the colors blue and red when different colored cards are set before them. After the child identifies the colors, they are shown a new hand of cards and asked to do the same task. Using this repetition, the child masters the skill.

Process for ABA Therapy: Evaluation & Treatment

The process for ABA Therapy at our Denver office generally involves evaluation which is followed by treatment and monitoring. First, an evaluation is conducted to determine exactly what behaviors need to change and then goals are set to determine the desired outcome. The individual is taught new learning skills or given coping strategies for avoiding certain behaviors. Throughout treatment, progress is carefully monitored and recorded.

ABA Therapy can take place in a variety of settings. This includes but is not limited to the child’s classroom, home, and therapist office. How much therapy is needed is determined by a supervising clinician. The amount of weekly required hours can vary from one child to the next depending on their situation. For individuals not on the spectrum, two hours per week can be deemed sufficient time. However, for children on the Autism spectrum, generally 25 hours per week is considered optimal for successful treatment.

The length of time required for ABA Therapy also varies from one individual to the next. However, with time, many individuals do experience improvement from ABA services.

Schedule ABA Services at Emerge, Denver’s Trusted Mental Health Professionals

If you have questions about ABA Therapy or would like to schedule ABA services in Denver, please do not hesitate to contact our office. We would be more than happy to provide you with the assistance you need.