What is ABA Therapy for Autism?

ABA is what the best autism therapists use to support child development. It is an acronym for Applied Behavior Analysis, which is best practice treatment for people with autism. Behavioral therapy for autism uses the science of learning and behavior to help kids change their behavior.

Science teaches us how children learn and how behavior works. Using information that we’ve learned from scientific laws, ABA uses tools to help decrease challenging behaviors and behaviors that get in the way of learning.

The best autism therapists use ABA to:

  • Increase language and communication skills
  • Help with attention and focus
  • Foster social skills, and
  • Enhance school performance

Some therapists have experience using ABA therapy, but the best autism therapists recommend that ABA therapists become certified or have an ABA-certified therapist supervise them. What’s great about ABA therapy is that teachers and parents can also receive training to use at home or school.

Typically, ABA therapists do their work right in the child’s home, but other settings work as well. Parents only need to provide a dedicated area for working. Therapists will bring all the materials they need for the session.

ABA therapists use techniques that focus either on what happens before a child’s behavior occurs or the consequences after the behavior occurs. Additionally, all ABA techniques have structure and provide positive strategies for changing children’s responses and behaviors.

As an example, one of the scientific principles behind ABA for autism is positive reinforcement. Children are more likely to repeat positive behaviors when they feel rewarded. Child therapists use ABA positive reinforcement techniques to measure a child’s progress.

ABA sessions will look differently depending upon the type of techniques the therapist uses. There are five main ABA techniques:

  1. Discrete trial learning
  2. Incidental teaching
  3. Verbal behavior
  4. Pivotal response training
  5. Natural language paradigm

Typically, the ABA therapist sits at a child-sized table and uses some of the child’s favorite toys during therapy. ABA should be interactive and fun, with lots of continual praise.

After making progress, the therapist may expand the therapy to include small groups of children or change settings. In this way, kids learn to transfer the skills they learned. The therapist will also assess the child’s ability to apply the new skills in various settings. New experiences are where the child may face new or unfamiliar distractions.

Contact us to learn more about how we may be the best autism therapists for your child’s needs. We serve families of San Diego County, including Carlsbad, Encinitas, Rancho Santa Fe, Escondido and surrounding cities.

About Susan Gehrig, PhD

Susan Gehrig, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and founder of Paradox Psychological Services located in Carlsbad. She has a passion for supporting the wellbeing of children and teens. Her expertise is in child mindfulness and self-compassion, cognitive behavioral therapy, and child development. Dr. Gehrig provides psychoeducational testing and therapy services to help build a plan for success. Paradox provides services for families of San Diego North County and greater areas.

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