Applied Behavior Analysis, ABA, is one of the first recommendations I got for treating Zoe. I visited Applied Behavioral Strategies and learned that ABA is not really one specific thing. Instead, it’s actually the application of behavioral principles to get a desired behavior or remove a negative one. ABA autism therapy is one of many therapies that you can track in my autism planning workbook. It’s often the first therapy a parent will learn about and use after their child receives an autism diagnosis.
ABA Autism Therapy
What it involves:
Each therapy is tailored to the child. In reviewing the site above, I recognized the term “antecedent manipulation.” This refers to ABC (Antecedent Behavior Consequence), where you track Antecedent (what triggered it), Behavior and Consequence as well as the possible function. Other ABA techniques include peer training/interaction, social stories, modeling, schedules, etc.
How to get ABA autism therapy:
For us, it was offered as soon as we had an official diagnosis of autism from the developmental pediatrician, who gave us information on next steps. It’s a “first point” kind of therapy. Once a diagnosis is obtained, however, you’ll need further assessment to see if your child qualifies for more. You might have more difficulty getting ABA for a high-functioning child than we did for Zoe.
If your state provides benefits for your child’s therapy, this will be covered. Our experience is that this was free of charge. As of this update (4/5/17), it’s the only therapy treatment for autism covered by most insurances.
It can effectively eliminate behaviors at times, allowing your child to be more actively involved with activities, events and outings, or so they write at the link above.
I don’t remember anything about this doing anything all that helpful for my daughter in terms of seeing improvement in anything. I have heard it works great for some, but it has also been compared to dog training.
ABA autism therapy addresses the behavior and yes, the trigger, but not necessarily the underlying cause. It is labeled as “effective. That means it’s effective in getting a particular behavior in or out of a child.
The question is, does it get to the root of the issue, whether it’s medical or communicative or an emotion? The criticism I see of ABA is that it produces robotic behavior – and, yes, I’ve heard that from parents too. Some have called it downright abusive (as in, you’re treating your child like a dog), others have had little or no success with it.
I have heard people downright CURSE this therapy. Here is a good article from a former ABA therapist about why you should avoid it like the plague. Read her experiences at “I Abused Children for A Living” for a chilling look inside the practice of an ABA provider.
Low risk in terms of physical reactions, however, this ignores the issue of medical problems in autism cases. Also could have psychological effects I can’t see the benefit in training away something like a self-injurious behavior. That seems very “whack-a-mole” to me because I envision that root underlying problem will crop up somewhere else, and I bet that would be true for other problems. Also does nothing to address issues like sleep deprivation, constipation, diarrhea and is likely therefore minimally effective.
Benefits for other disabilities:
This is behavioral therapy so it should work as well for anything else.
Overall opinion of ABA Autism therapy:
ABA is as far away from treating root problems that cause behaviors as you can get. In my experience, treating root causes are far more effective than this type of therapy.