“While ABA may sound complicated, we experience and use many ABA principles in our everyday life.
Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is a therapy based on the science of learning and behaviour. The evidence-based practice is widely recognised to be effective in treating behavioural issues associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (Scheffer, Didden, Korzilius and Sturmey, 2011).
While ABA may sound complicated, we experience and use many principles of ABA in our everyday life. For example, ABA is known for its use of positive reinforcers. Without being fully aware, we reinforce friends and family members’ “good behaviours” by saying thank you, giving a smile or praising them.
The science of behaviour analysis provides an in-depth knowledge of how these behaviour mechanisms interact with one another. ABA therapy applies that knowledge to produce socially significant changes in the individual’s behaviour.
What does an ABA therapy programme involve?
A therapist will conduct an initial observation or evaluation with the student. The practitioner will also conduct an informal interview with the student’s caregiver to understand better how the student behaves outside of the school.
Identifying target behaviour:
With the help of the information gathered from the assessment and informal interview, the therapist will identify a target behaviour for the student and make recommendations.
Data collection and intervention protocol:
After identifying the target behaviour, the service provider will perform baseline data collection and write an intervention protocol.
Implementation of intervention:
Once the baseline data is stable and the intervention protocol is approved, the therapist will implement the intervention and monitor the student’s target behaviour until it reaches the proficiency criteria.
What are the benefits of an ABA programme?
Within an early intervention programme setting, ABA can help with:
1. Behaviour management
ABA can reduce a behaviour’s intensity, duration, and frequency. Behaviours often targeted for reduction are self-injuries (for example, head banging and hang mouthing), non-learning compatible behaviours (out-of-seat behaviours, screaming, and shouting), and violent behaviours (hitting staff, scratching peers, and property destruction). Behaviour management aims to provide an alternative way for the child to meet their needs and avoid exclusion from learning settings such as schools.
2. The learning of new skills
ABA can also be used to teach new skills. For example, within an Early Intervention Programme (EIP), most of the skills taught will be classroom readiness skills to allow the child to access a learning setting with less intensive teacher support and longer duration. In addition, several assessment tools within the science of ABA, such as The Verbal Behaviour Milestones Assessment and Placement Programme (VB-MAPP) [Sundberg, 2008] and the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills (ABLLS) [Partington, 1998], provide a means to measure an individual’s communication and independent living skills. They also aid in deciding what skills to tutor the child next.
3. Promoting better parenting
ABA programmes require the cooperation and involvement of parents or guardians to produce the best outcome – because the child spends most of their time in the home. For ABA therapy/principles to be consistently applied, parents must train to maintain the skills learned in therapy. These skills include identifying what their child likes, how to play with them, what to do when problem behaviour occurs, and how to communicate with them. Trained parents are better at parenting because they can understand and meet their child’s needs.
4. Being an effective form of treatment
Research has shown that ABA as a treatment for ASD effectively improves language, cognitive abilities, adaptive behaviour, and social skills (Dawson, 2011). However, it is essential to note that the quality of service significantly impacts the effectiveness of ABA (Pipkin, Vollmer and Sloman, 2010). Consequently, a regulatory board must license ABA service providers to ensure accountability if a standards breach occurs.
ABA therapy is an evidence-based practice that aims to reduce problem behaviours and teach new skills. For example, classroom readiness skills are taught within an EIP setting to prepare them for a learning environment that provides less support.
Taarana School provides programmes with social and emotional support for children with, among others, Down syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD) or Dyspraxia, and Global Development Delay.
Our school offers a broad and balanced curriculum that meets the needs of all students. Learning and skills development are personalised, ensuring that each child fulfils their potential. For example, Taarana’s Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) therapy helps to give autistic children a chance to show that they are capable of learning and modifying behaviours.
By Clement Chan (BCBA)