ord What is ABA?
What is ABA? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sorah Stein   
Monday, 30 May 2011 21:40

You might have heard of Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA. Typically we hear about it in relation to children with autism. I’d like to give you a little more information about what ABA is and is not, so that you can make an informed decision, or help someone else do so.

To start with, what is ABA? ABA (not to be confused with ABBA), is a science - specifically the science of behavior allowing us to predict what people will do and help people make changes to live better.

In conversational language, ABA refers to a therapeutic technology. It is the recommended course of treatment for children with autism, by the Surgeon General whose website states, “Thirty years of research demonstrated the efficacy of applied behavioral methods in reducing inappropriate behavior and in increasing communication, learning, and appropriate social behavior.” (http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/mentalhealth/chapter3/sec6.html#autism)

ABA is a way to provide intensive, direct treatment to people, including those without autism, who engage in problem behavior, or want to engage in a desired behavior more often. ABA is used to help people stop smoking, take their medications consistently, stick to an exercise program, drive more safely, and even be more “green” (and husbands pick socks up off of floors!).

What does it involve? ABA can be very time-intensive. Some children receive 40-hours per week of services! ABA can certainly be less intensive than this, with some children or adults receiving an hour per day, or even per week. Some people might consult with a provider just once or twice.

Who does it? ABA services should be provided or supervised by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) or a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA). Sometimes a BCBA will hire therapists to work with a child. The therapist will be trained by the BCBA and will be supervised regularly. This helps the child learn to work with a variety of people. A BCaBA also work under the supervision of a BCBA. Be sure to ask to see credentials of any provider before hiring them to work with your child.

What training and education do providers have? A LOT! A BCBA has completed a Master’s or Doctoral degree and 1500-hours of supervised experience. A BCaBA has at completed at least a Bachelor’s degree and 1000-hours of supervised experience. Both levels require an extensive, comprehensive examination as well. (http://bacb.com/index.php?page=53) Also, to maintain certification, the BCBA or BCaBA must complete continuing education activities and stay current with the research (http://bacb.com/index.php?page=91).

Who is it for? As stated above, ABA can be used for a variety of purposes and people. ABA can be effective in schools, both for improving behavior and for improving learning. ABA can also be used in business environments to improve attendance, safety, productivity, and efficiency. And, ABA can be used as a teaching technology for children with autism and to help decrease problem behavior in people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as to teach new skills.

What results can I expect? You can expect to see improvement in self-help skills, communication, academic skills, safety, and more. It depends on your goals and needs. You can expect frequent feedback from your provider. This might include graphs that allow you to easy see the individual's progress. You will also see the individual develop more skills or have noticeable improvements in behavior.

I’ve heard ABA uses punishment! This need not be true! ABA always uses reinforcement as the first approach. In very difficult cases, where all forms of reinforcement have been used (and documented), a BCBA might use a mild punishment procedure paired with reinforcement for some other, desired behavior. Be assured, this is NOT common. The BCBA should also seek approval from appropriate outside agencies before using punishment (i.e., a human rights committee)

I’ve also heard that ABA turns kids into robots. ABA does not turn children into robots! A good provider will teach the individual to do a variety of tasks, including playing games, having conversations (to the best of his/her ability), and other leisure activities, and pretending to be a robot!

How long does it take? Be prepared: ABA is not a quick fix, magic wand kind of treatment. You should expect to spend time and effort. You should expect your provider to train you to work with your child. You should also expect to have services for a while; but the length of treatment will depend on the unique needs of each individual.

Do I need to participate? Only if you want good results! A good provider will train everyone in the individual’s immediate environment. This might include parents, siblings, and child-care providers. This is done to increase the consistency in how people interact with and respond to the individual, which will lead to greater overall effects of the treatment. ABA is not just about the 45-minute treatment sessions, it involves an overhaul of how people interact, work, and play.  You should be involved in the entire process, starting with the assessment.  You should also make sure that you are present in most therapy sessions so that you can learn the methods to use with your child at home.  It's great that your child will learn new things.  It's even better if he or she can use them outside of the therapy sessions!

How much does it cost? And, how can I find a provider? This can depend on the diagnosis of the individual and your medical insurance. The state of Indiana has an autism mandate. This means that some employers are required to cover ABA services for children with autism, under their medical insurance. If your employer insurance is exempt, or your child does not have a diagnosis of autism, you will most likely need to pay for services out-of-pocket.

Is there a waiting list for services? Because of the intensive and long-term nature of therapy, some providers will have waiting lists; others may not. At this time, while it may take a few weeks to contract with your insurance company, there is no waiting list for services with the behavior analysts who work with Partnership for Behavior Change: 574-329-6856.


Last Updated on Friday, 12 August 2011 18:52

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