What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)?
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy focuses on the principles and techniques of learning theory to help increase or decrease certain behaviors. ABA therapy is a scientifically validated approach to understanding learning and behavior by looking at the function of the behavior and the environment in which it occurs.
Anything a person does is considered a behavior: talking, eating, coloring, tying shoes, etc… ABA Therapy looks at a particular behavior, studies the purpose behind a behavior to understand in what circumstances that behavior occurs, then uses various techniques to change the behavior, teach a new behavior, or a more functional way of doing that behavior.
How ABA Therapy Benefits Children with Autism
ABA Therapy principles have been applied since the early 1960s to both children and adults with various developmental diagnosis. Since then, there has been an evolution and improvement in the therapy techniques used in ABA, however, the core teaching of ABA has stayed the same. ABA is scientifically validated and data driven and consistently shows the best outcomes for children with autism. Today, ABA is the only therapy endorsed by the U.S. Surgeon General as an effective treatment for autism and is endorsed by a number of other state and federal agencies, in addition to physicians and advocates in the autism community.
ABA therapy helps to (1) develop new skills, (2) shape and refine previously learned skills, and (3) decrease socially significant problem behaviors.
ABA therapy is incredibly effective in helping children with autism gain new skills. For example, if a child’s parent and clinical team determine that a goal for a child is to learn to tie their shoes, this would take place over a period of time with several steps. The child may start with going and finding his/her own shoes. Once that is mastered, the child might find them and place them on their feet independently. Following that, the next step might be to cross the strings. This would continue until the child is independently completing all steps of the process. These steps will be different for every child, but the concept is the same, start at the beginning and give the child the building blocks to complete the new skill independently.
Shaping and refining previously learned skills can take many forms. For example, initially a child may engage someone by pulling a caregiver to an item he or she wants. This may be the only way the child may know how to get someone’s attention. With ABA, this communication skills can be shaped into a different and more effective way of communicating. For example, the BCBA might teach the child how to point to an item instead. They might build towards using a picture communication system, using vocal sounds, or an Augmentative Alternative Communication Device. The possibilities are endless! While this is just one example of shaping previously learned skills, in ABA therapy skills can be shaped in a variety of milestones including, play and independent living skills, just to name a few.
Some of the first signs a child may have autism may come in the form of socially significant problem behavior such as, intense tantrums, inappropriate behavior, flopping, etc.
For example, if a child typically has tantrums during lunch, ABA therapy could help in many ways. First, the clinicians would evaluate the environment in which that behavior is taking place. Does this only happen when the child is eating at home? Or when the child is eating at a restaurant? Perhaps it happens while eating in a lunchroom setting, but not at home or while eating at a restaurant. What can the environment in which that screaming is taking place tell us about the behavior?
Once the root cause of the behavior, whether environmental, or something else, is identified, the next step is giving the child the tools to appropriately communicate their wants, needs, or what they do not like about the environment. Perhaps they are upset because they see other peers eating something they want. Maybe the lunchroom feels too loud or overwhelming. Whatever it is, we help give that child the tools to be able to tolerate that environment and appropriately express themselves.
ABA Therapy at Lighthouse Autism Center
At Lighthouse Autism Center, we offer the highest quality therapy in a beautiful, play-based environment. With an innovative ABA therapy model called Lighthouse Fusion, children make greater progress, faster, all while having fun.
Children are immersed in imaginary spaces where they can naturally explore their interests, engage in sensory experiences, and practice language. Each child’s progress can be seen in smiles and laughter, because we know children learn best when they’re having fun.
We believe each child has unique and unlimited potential. At Lighthouse, we are committed to bringing together compassionate care and clinical excellence to unlock that potential and help each child achieve the possible.
Tailored Therapy Programs to Meet Every Child’s Needs
Every child’s program is built to meet their unique needs. Although each program will look different, there are commonalities among ABA therapy programs offered at Lighthouse including:
Experts with Small Caseloads
Highly trained and experienced board certified behavior analysts (BCBAs) who design and oversee a child’s therapy program. Each BCBA oversees a max of 8 children to allow for individualized attention for each client.
Each child benefits from a speech-language pathologist who collaborates with your child’s BCBA and team of RBT’s on speech, language and communication goals. This is part of our unique Lighthouse Fusion model.
Natural Environment Teaching
Our approach uses natural environment teaching (NET) to helps learners acquire skills through their natural environments and interests. This play-based approach makes our program not only fun, but highly effective for our learners.
Custom Therapy Programs
Each child will have a custom therapy program created following a detailed assessment by a BCBA. The program will include goals unique to the child’s skills and preferences, and incorporate parent and family goals.
Treatment instruction and goals are developmentally appropriate and focus on a broad range of skills, such as sociability, communication, play, self-care, leisure, academic skills and motor development.
Long Term Development
Therapy goals emphasize skills that enable learners to become independent and successful, now and in the future.
The clinical team frequently reviews the child’s progress and data to make empirically based program adjustments. This is done through consistent data collection.
Regular meetings between families and the clinical team allow for planning, review of the child’s progress and real-time adjustments of a child’s programming.