ABA Therapy and The Science Behind It
Having a child diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be a stressful time for any family. A Friendly Face (AFF)-Autism Treatment Center is there every step of the way to guide families in providing the best possible care for their child. Applied Behavior Analysis therapy is a specific type of therapy based on science and data. ABA therapy is a method of teaching children with ASD that is FDA approved and highly effective in improving quality of life for kids with ASD and their families. Here at AFF we train and supervise all our Behavior Technicians so they can effectively administer this type of therapy. ABA therapy allows for the improvement of social skills, daily living skills, and lessen challenging behaviors often exhibited by those diagnosed with ASD.
So How Does ABA Therapy Work?
Applied Behavior Analysis is the science of analyzing behaviors and making systematic changes to the environment using the principles of learning and behavior to make meaningful and socially significant changes in behaviors. The basics of ABA therapy is based on the basics of psychology and uses positive reinforcement as well as Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence (ABC).
Positive and Negative Reinforcement
Positive Reinforcement involves the addition of a reinforcing stimulus following a behavior that makes it more likely that the behavior will occur again in the future. When a favorable outcome, event, or reward occurs after an action, that particular response or behavior will be strengthened.
Example: Whenever I see you clean this room, I’ll give you five dollars.
Negative Reinforcement involves the removal of a reinforcing stimulus following a behavior that makes it more likely that the behavior will occur again in the future. When a favorable outcome, event, or reward occurs after an action, that particular response or behavior will be strengthened.
Example: Whenever I see this room dirty, I’ll take your phone for the rest of the day.
The ABCs of ABA
- Antecedent- This occurs right before a target behavior. This can come in the form of a verbal communication and could be a request or a command. An antecedent could also be physical like an object, toy or even light and sound.
- Behavior- This comes after the antecedent and is the response to the specific stimuli that was presented. Behaviors can come in the form of an action, a verbal response, or something else.
- Consequence- Comes directly after the behavior. This is when positive or negative reinforcement is used to strengthen a desired behavior, A consequence could also mean not reacting to a challenging behavior to decrease the likelihood that it will happen again. Your choices will shape the child’s behaviors. If you consistently respond to a child’s behavior in the same manner, the behavior will most likely continue. Your response will alter that behavior in the future.
The 4 Functions of Behavior
Knowing why your child is reacting a certain way to a stimulus is extremely important in understanding. Functions of behavior are the “reasons” why a behavior is occurring. There are four basic functions of behavior.
- Attention: Behavior is occurring because the child wants to gain someone’s attention
- Escape/Avoidance: Behavior is occurring because the child is attempting to avoid/escape a certain task or activity
- Access: Behavior is occurring because someone is attempting to gain access/retrieve a particular item or activity
- Automatic: Behavior is occurring because the child is receiving sensory stimulation and is internally reinforced
- The unknown variable, the 5th function—something causing the behavior that cannot be attributed to the 4 functions (illness, pain, sensory overload, etc.,)
How to use these Functions:
Children with autism often do not have the skill to engage in the appropriate behavior we want to see. We need to teach REPLACEMENT behaviors and reinforce those replacement behaviors.
ATTENTION=teach to ask for it appropriately (Excuse me, can you help me, hi!, I like your shirt, etc.,)
AVOIDANCE=teach to say, “It’s hard, can you help?” (Non-compliance needs a reinforcer ie., toys, ipad, etc.,)
ACCESS=for children who have communication difficulties, we teach to ask for the item (Contingency: you have to do something to get what you want.)
AUTOMATIC=customized for the child
UNKNOWN=seek medical opinion