ABA Therapy - Q&A

  • What is ABA?

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  • Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, is a treatment approach that looks at factors in an individual’s environment that may have various effects on their behavior and the behavior of others.  Treatment focuses on both increasing prosocial and adaptive behaviors, as well as decreasing or eliminating inappropriate behaviors. ABA is based on the philosophy of Behaviorism and principles of learning, and helps individuals with a wide variety of diagnoses and behavioral concerns. There is a strong reliance on the collection and constant monitoring of client data, in which all client progress is tracked and recorded to clearly demonstrate treatment effects. 

  • One of the primary components of ABA is the use of positive reinforcement. During treatment, positive reinforcement is used to strengthen current skills, teach new pro-social behaviors, as well as teach appropriate alternative behaviors to reduce client’s maladaptive behaviors. Utilizing these components, the ultimate goal of ABA is to help clients engage in their environment more successfully.

  • Why ABA for autism?

    ABA is an evidence-based treatment for individuals diagnosed with autism and related disorders. Since its inception in the early 1960s, ABA has been a field that has derived its principles and interventions from scientific research. A large and growing body of research exists demonstrating the effectiveness of ABA treatment. ABA is promoted by the Center for Disease Control, and has been endorsed by the US Surgeon General as a treatment for individuals diagnosed with autism. Early intervention with ABA has been shown to be a large contributing factor in the improvement of a wide range of developmental skills.

    In the treatment of individuals diagnosed with autism, ABA works on a wide variety of skills and behaviors. With ABA, there is an emphasis on breaking skills down into components, utilizing repetition and reinforcement, and lastly putting these components together to create a comprehensive skill set.

    Targeted Skills Include:

    • Cognitive Development
    • Compliance
    • Language and Communication
    • Social Skills
    • Play and Leisure Skills
    • Self-help Skills
    • Independent Living Skills
    • Gross and Fine Motor Skills
    • Tolerance
    • Reduction of Problem Behaviors
  • What does ABA look like?

    Traditionally, ABA treatment is delivered with a 1:1 ratio, in which each client works directly with one therapist during treatment sessions. ABA utilizes several interventions and tactics in the treatment of individuals diagnosed with autism and related disorders. Some of these interventions are discrete trial training, naturalistic teaching, and verbal behavior interventions.

    Discrete Trial Training (DTT) – DTT teaches skills in a structured and systematic manner. Different skills are taught using repetition, and positive reinforcement is delivered for independent responding. DTT incorporates prompts, or therapist assistance, to help clients develop a wide range of new skills.

    Naturalistic Teaching – Naturalistic teaching looks to incorporate skills developed in DTT in the client’s natural environment. This approach ensures that the client can functionally utilize all skills in their day-to-day life and outside of the treatment setting. With naturalistic teaching approaches, client initiations and interactions in the natural environment are used as opportunities to increase functional and adaptive skills.

    Verbal Behavior Interventions – Language is a powerful tool that helps individuals successfully interact with their environment and get their needs met. A large component of treatment looks to strengthen a client’s communication skills, whether it be verbal communication, sign language, or augmented communication devices.

  • Who delivers services?

    Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) – The BCBA credential requires a Masters-level degree with specific coursework in behavior analysis and clinical supervision hours in the field, in addition to passing a board exam. In order to retain their certification, BCBAs are required to receive continuing education credits related to behavior analysis. BCBAs are responsible for the design of all aspects of client treatment, from skill acquisition to behavior reduction. They complete assessments, continuously evaluate data, and supervise all staff that implement treatment. BCBAs are also responsible for providing assistance and training for client’s caregivers and any other individuals in the client’s life.

    Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) – The BCaBA credential requires an undergraduate degree with specific coursework in behavior analysis, clinical supervision hours in the field, and passing a certification exam. In order to retain their certification, BCaBAs are required to receive continuing education credits related to behavior analysis. BCaBAs assist BCBAs with several aspects of service delivery, such as assisting in assessments, supervising staff, and evaluating treatment data. BCaBAs are required to practice under the supervision of a BCBA.

    Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) – The RBT credential requires completion of a 40-hour training course that includes classroom based trainings and in-session competency assessments. After completion of the 40-hour training course, there is also a requirement to pass a certification exam. RBTs provide direct implementation of behavior interventions and treatments developed by BCBAs. A minimum of 5% of RBT hours of service delivery are required to be supervised by either a BCaBA or BCBA. SpecKids requires all direct care staff to become credentialed as an RBT.