Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and Behavior Modification
What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)?
ABA is an evidence-based therapy technique focused on teaching how behaviors work and using this understanding to find the best learning methods for an individual. It’s often catered toward people with developmental disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
What is the Main Goal of ABA Therapy?
ABA aims to understand a person’s behavior and use this knowledge to develop a treatment plan that improves learning and conduct. Using ABA techniques and principles brings about meaningful and positive behavior changes.
ABA also works to reduce problem behaviors that may interfere with learning or prove to be harmful. For example, Functional Behavior Assessments (FBA) and other treatment assessments gather information to increase desired behaviors. Therapists also look at environmental triggers of behavior, known as antecedent behaviors.
What are Antecedents of Behavior?
A therapist may look for antecedent behaviors that lead to a specific behavior. For example, a child may become agitated when asked to put their shoes on and throw a tantrum when their parent tries to assist them. A therapist will identify this antecedent “trigger” and work on minimizing the child’s negative response through different techniques. Likewise, antecedents can trigger a positive response and work with reinforcement to reduce problematic behaviors.
How is ABA Different from Psychology?
ABA takes an approach to therapy that focuses on how an individual’s environment impacts and interacts with their behavior. Psychology, however, looks at the mind of an individual; personality, brain structure, internal barriers, etc.
ABA is grounded in evidence-based science and works hand-in-hand with the psychology field. Because internal (brain) and external (environment) correlate and overlap, psychology programs incorporate ABA as a core skill set.
What Skills Does ABA Target?
ABA therapy focuses on the skills that pertain to daily life. Knowing how to communicate effectively with others and practicing self-care and other skills like time management is vital. These bleed into all aspects of a person’s life, including professional, academic, social, and personal.
Roman Empire Agency’s ABA services work on developing the following skills in our consumers:
- Communication Skills
- Community Training
- Functional Pre-Academics
- Functional Academics
- Home Living Skills
- Health and Safety
- Leisure Skills
- Self Care Skills
- Social Behaviors and Skills
- Motor Skills
- Work Skills
Our team offers a detailed analysis of each consumer to identify critical areas that need support. Typically, individuals with developmental disabilities will receive a certain degree of help in each area. Still, there are times when long-term training in a specific skill needs to be emphasized.
The 7 Dimensions of ABA Therapy
Within ABA therapy, the therapist must develop a plan with goals that follow seven dimensions. These include generality, effective, technological, applied, behavioral, analytic, and conceptual.
Skills that are generalized can be maintained long-term after being learned. They can be applied to a wide variety of settings. In ABA, skills may need to be learned through multiple platforms and methods to help establish a concrete understanding.
Example: A child learns to zip up their jacket, and as a general skill, can now zip and unzip their backpack, pencil case, and any other item involving the skills of zipping.
An achievable goal needs to be a desired goal. Therapists work with the consumer to determine what skills they personally want to meet. It’s much easier to encourage reaching a goal that applies to the individual, and the lack of it impacts their daily life.
Example: A two-year-old isn’t likely to find significance in mastering toilet training the way a seven-year-old would. To the older child, there’s more social significance in this skill set.
The technological dimension of ABA therapy suggests that a treatment plan should be comprehensible to a general audience. Both the therapist and consumer should be able to thoroughly understand the wording and description of the plan in order for it to be implemented correctly and effectively.
Using scientific, medical, and highly technical wording in a treatment plan makes it difficult for the consumer to follow along.
As the word suggests, treatment in ABA therapy must be applicable to the consumer. There needs to be an essential significance to each goal the consumer is working toward.
Example: It would be insignificant to teach an adult to swim who has no pool and no desire to go to the beach or recenter. Instead, teaching them how to ride a bike on the accessible sidewalks around their home makes much more sense.
Behavioral dimensions in ABA vary from psychology because they look only at goals that are measurable and visible. While a psychologist may look at levels of depression in a patient, an ABA therapist will look at the behaviors depression itself manifests.
Example: An ABA therapist may measure a consumer’s depression levels based on behaviors like crying, self-isolating, and showing little to no interest in activities.
ABA is a science-backed practice acknowledged and practiced in psychology. Within treatment, therapists always take evidence-based approaches when creating plans for their consumers.
Example: Some practices that claim to be effective don’t have scientific evidence to support them, placing them in the pseudoscience category, e.g., astrology.
Established universities offer bachelor’s and master’s in Applied Behavioral Analysis, and psychology programs emphasize ABA.
ABA therapists don’t create treatment plans based on personal preferences or by pulling from outside sources. All aspects of intervention and treatment are rooted in the theoretical base of ABA.
Who Can Benefit from ABA?
The ABA program is for individuals of all ages with developmental disabilities, behavioral disorders, and other conditions impacting behavior. At Roman Empire, we primarily focus on helping adults and children with autism and other developmental disabilities.
ABA is for all ages and stages of learning and development. ABA programs are excellent behavioral interventions that use positive reinforcement to promote desired behavior and growth.
Spending several hours per week in the program can prove incredibly beneficial, and you can see the progress being made for yourself.
What Does a Typical ABA Session Look Like?
A single session of ABA will look different from person to person. The schedule and focus areas depend on a consumer’s strengths, goals, and negative behaviors. As a broad framework, an ABA session typically includes the following:
- Assessment. ABA begins with an evaluation of the consumer’s skill levels. The therapist looks at their strengths and areas that need improvement.
- Goal Setting. Once the therapist establishes the problem areas, they can begin to identify goals for skill development.
- Skill Building and Positive Reinforcement. Working with the consumer, the therapist will utilize different techniques to work on building skills. When the consumer completes a task or exhibits a desired behavior, the therapist will offer positive reinforcement to encourage them to continue.
- Information Gathering. This step takes place throughout the session. The therapist will keep track of the consumer’s progress, behavior, and best-suited techniques. For therapists working with children, this information can be relayed to the parents, so they stay in the loop with their child’s progress.
- Progress Review. The therapist typically ends the session with a summary of progress, which skills are improving and which need more support, and any homework for the consumer.
What are Examples of ABA in the Classroom?
ABA therapy incorporates different activities that target skill development. The activities chosen for a session are based on the consumer’s needs. Teachers may use ABA techniques to foster target behavior and reduce undesirable behaviors in their students.
Example 1: A student who continues to act out may have specific motivations (gaining attention). Using positive reinforcement such as an encouraging remark (“you did so well listening today,” “great job sitting still”) can reduce classroom interruptions by giving a rewarding response to good behavior.
Example 2: Teachers may use a reward system that individual students or the entire class can earn by exhibiting positive behavior. For example, If the classroom stays silent during a test, they’ll receive extra recess time.
Developmentally Disabled Treatment Services
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