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Applied Behavior Analysis (commonly referred to as ABA) is different than other therapies for children with Autism. ABA typically requires more parent/care giver involvement than other interventions such as Speech Therapy or Occupational Therapy. The recommended number of hours can be as high as 40 hours per week to reach optimal outcomes. Parents often ask How am I supposed to make that happen? or Is that truly necessary? 

We think the  Lovaas Institute gives a great answer to these questions:

"The purpose of 40 hours of therapy is to provide a child with structured intervention throughout the day. During structured intervention, the environment is systematically manipulated to help a child remain successful while also teaching new skills quickly. In addition, parents are empowered to continue intervention throughout the child’s waking hours. Typically developing children learn from the natural environment all of their waking hours. The purpose of an intensive program is to allow a child with autism to learn how to learn in the natural environment and ultimately catch up to his or her typically developing peers."
ABA is more than a therapy, it is a lifestyle change. 

Before enrolling a child in an ABA program, parents should prepare to get the most out of ABA. Here are some suggestions:

1) All Care Givers Need to be on the Same Page
Calling all Parents, Family Members, Babysitters, Teachers, and Therapists!
ABA works best when everyone is on the same page. When a child first enrolls in an ABA program, a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) will work with the child to complete an assessment and write a treatment plan. This treatment plan will include systematic steps to help a child learn new skills or decrease negative behaviors. Whatever your child is working on, everyone needs to be on the same page. Interventions should not stop when the therapists go home. Intervention methods needs to be consistent to be effective. 
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2) Learn what ABA is and how to do it! 
I am just a parent, not an ABA Therapist!!!!! Ask your ABA provider to teach you how to help your child at home, school, birthday parties, anywhere! Your therapist will be thrilled! Parents need to be empowered to continue intervention throughout the child’s waking hours.  An effective ABA program focuses on children generalizing skills and learning in Natural Environments. It is important for children to learn with their therapists, but the goal is for the child to demonstrate those skills in other environments and with other individuals! After all, the ultimate goal is that the child does not need the therapist anymore!


3) Show Up to Therapy Appointments
We know it is hard to attend every appointment, but we promise, it will be worth it!
Parenting a child with special needs often means driving your child around constantly from appointment to appointment. While life events might sometimes get in the way, consistency and routine will give your child the best chance to succeed! After an assessment, a  BCBA will recommend a certain number of hours per week for a child to be in ABA. Therapists want the best outcome for each and every child. The recommended number of hours is a plan to help children with Autism reach their highest potential. ABA will only be effective and provide long lasting results when a child receives an appropriate number of hours consistently. 

4) Follow Through with Expectations & Boundaries
Every, single, time! 
Children with Autism often lack receptive and expressive communication skills. This can make understanding the world they live in very confusing. Giving a child with Autism clear expectations and boundaries helps make the world a little less confusing. A great example of how this can help a child with Autism come from Educator Janet Gonzalez-Mena:

Imagine driving over a bridge in the dark.. If the bridge has no railings we will drive across it slowly and tentatively. But if we see railings on either side of us, we can drive over the bridge with ease and confidence. This is how a young child feels in regard to limits in his environment.
Seeking the ‘railings’ he needs to feel secure, a child will continue to test a caregiver until boundaries are clearly stated. Power struggles are a necessary part of the development of ‘self’ for the child; however, the outcome must be that the child knows that the adult is in charge. Children do not usually admit this, but they do not wish to be all powerful and the possibility that they might be is frightening indeed. Children raised without firm, consistent boundaries are insecure and world-weary. Burdened with too many decisions and too much power, they miss out on the joyful freedom every child deserves
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This is one of the most difficult things parents of children with Autism have to face. However, this will make the most significant impact on your child's life. Following an intervention plan written by a BCBA often means ignoring a child throwing a tantrum, 
sitting and waiting (even though you are running late) for your child to independently get dressed, or having your child ask (Communication! Yay!) for each cheerio...one at a time. 

5) Reinforce! Reinforce! Reinforce! 
A good ABA Program is a fun ABA Program!
This is the fun part! ABA means you get to celebrate every success, no matter how small! Get ready to have a dance party because your child went pee pee in the potty, keep those M&Ms handy in case your child spontaneously uses a "WH question", and learn all the words to their favorite song so you can sing it when they have a tantrum free day! Reinforcers can be anything that your child enjoys! Ask your therapist to train you on reinforcement or keep an eye out for our next blog post! 
"Positive reinforcement is the most important and most widely applied principle of behaviour analysis"
- Cooper, Heron and Heward (2007, p.257)
 


Comments

I believe that Applied Behavior Analysis will be another effective way to help our children with autism. Compared to other therapies, ABA requires more time with the parent or a caregiver of a child since it's one of the main factors of the effectiveness therapy. Aside from the fact that it's more intimate, it's more fun. Parents and care givers should learn this program!

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