ABA Therapy and Its Importance
Intro to Psych
Therapy and Its Importance
of the most debilitating developmental and psychological conditions is that of
Autism Spectrum disorder, which has skyrocketed in the past decade. Because of
psychological and educational advancements, the evidence-based science of applied
behavioral analysis has been developed as the primary treatment approach for
those with a spectrum disorder.
PhD Jolie S. Brams
(2008) has described applied behavioral analysis as “an ordered, sequenced
approach to learning that can be measured and quantified” (p.28). She
continues: “The broad goal is to maximize the child’s behavioral repertoire and
solidify his or her ability to learn from instruction and experience. Applied
behavioral analysis techniques can address each of the skill deficits that
interfere with the developmental trajectory of autistic child” (p. 28). The methods of ABA therapy stem from theories and
practices of Watson (1913), Thorndike (1921), and B.F. Skinner (1938) (Leaf et.
Many studies and
methods of research have confirmed that ABA is the closest to a cure for Autism
as any other (Pollack 2016). In fact, the United
States Surgeon General (1999) has declared, “Thirty years of research
demonstrated the efficacy of applied behavioral methods in reducing inappropriate
behavior and in increasing communication, learning and appropriate social
autism is diagnosed usually within the first three years of birth, experts
implore that children receive early intervention treatment. Applied behavioral
analysis has far-reaching and seemingly endless options for clinical and
educational treatment, especially for those who utilize early intervention.
Children who receive home based early intensive behavioral
treatment have been shown to make substantial, sustained gains in IQ/DQ,
language, academic performance, and adaptive behavior (Leaf et. al, 2016). Researchers
have found that when children receive early intensive behavioral interventions,
it has the potential to save both the state and federal government hundreds of
thousands of dollars per individual (Sambandam, 2014).
analysis is not a specific technique or treatment (Brahms, 2008), and the
“programs” can be performed in the home, in clinic settings, or in schools and
throughout the community. The availability and diversity of ABA is imperative
due to the nature of autism being an umbrella ailment, and interventions need to be geared to the individual
child (Brams, 2008).
Many insurance companies and many
states now require that ABA be included in health insurance plans due to the
great need of ABA services. Even though ABA is a form of behavioral psychology,
behavior reduction or elimination is not the only targeted solution for the approach.
“Tantrums and/or aggressive behaviors are also obstacles to learning”
(Brams, 2008, p. 28), which can be maintained with the help of ABA therapy.
The repertoire of applied
behavioral analysis spans throughout the stages of development and is catered
to each individual. Programs and implementations include (but are not limited
to): cognitive and language development (McDonald, 2014), fine and gross motor
skills, nonvocal inhibition, emotional regulation, gaining attention, safety
awareness, play skills, dressing, handwashing and other hygiene skills,
behavior reduction (as seen in those with aggression, property destruction,
disruption, stereotypy, etc.), and tidying.
Examples of various
echoics that are used to help a child practice oral motor skills or improve
speech by chaining words, sentences, and phrases.
Motor skills: using a
tripod grasp to hold a crayon, pencil, or other writing utensil; dribbling a
discrete trial training, the client is taught to distinguish each action such
as “reading” or “dancing”
Objects: This also can
be performed during DTT lessons, and is used to help teach the patient to tact
Manding: This program
is used to help children communicate, as a request or mand is the basic and
first form of communication. Examples include withholding preferred items such
as toys or edibles and teaching the child to ask (“mand”) for the desired item.
teaching the child to respond to a certain stimulus or even a two-three step
course of action.
programs teach patience and inhibition, often decreasing maladaptive behaviors
during waiting times
Sharing and turn
taking: this social activity not only helps teach children how to play but also
interact with their peers in a socially acceptable context. This may include
these programs can help a child with autism in an experiential role to be more
empathetic and receptive to others’ emotions by detecting and responding to
ABA is provided through
discrete trial and naturalistic teaching in both individual and group settings,
while led by a one-on-one therapist (MacDonald, 2014). Because autistic
children do not learn from observation as their neurotypical peers do, those
with autism require more repetition and reinforcement than those who are not
biodivergent. To help children expand their play repertoire, therapists may
implement certain types of creativity including functional, symbolic, and
pretend play into their natural environment teaching. PhD Jolie S. Brams (2008)
As a result of neurobiological
development and the benefit of instruction, over time, most children mature
into abstract thinkers. Abstract thinking in young children does not equate
with the ability to sort out complex motivations. Instead, one aspect of
abstract thinking translates into seeing an action as a means to an end.
Children with autism generally do not have this understanding, and their
motivation for learning a behavior is limited. In addition, children with
autism are limited in their ability to enjoy and benefit from representational
play. (p. 27)
a behavioral therapist in the field of applied behavioral analysis, I can
certainly proclaim that the intervention has the potential to transform
lives—both for the patient and those who are involved in the client’s lives. Behavior
and other targeted outcomes take time to develop and improve, but ABA has
helped improve the lives of those with ASD for over thirty years. Overall, ABA
therapy can help the patient “learn to learn” (Brams, 2008, p. 27). Because of
the advancements of psychology, educational and clinical achievements are being
developed and improved daily.
Brams, J. S. (2008).
Managing autism in children: The ABCs of applied behavioral analysis. Psychiatric
Times, 25(2), 26-33. Retrieved from http://library.capella.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.library.capella.edu/docview/204639405?accountid=27965
Leaf, J. B., Leaf, R., Mceachin, J., Taubman, M.,
Ala’i-rosales, S., Ross, R. K. . . . Weiss, M. J. (2016). Applied behavior
analysis is a science and, therefore, progressive. Journal of Autism
and Developmental Disorders, 46(2), 720-731.
Rebecca (12/01/2014). “Assessing progress and outcome of early intensive
behavioral intervention for toddlers with autism”. Research in
developmental disabilities (0891-4222), 35 (12), p. 3632.
Y. (2016). Is Applied Behavioral Analysis Education, Medicine, or Both? A Study
of the Funding Challenges That Accompany An Autism Diagnosis. Seton Hall Law Review, 47(1), 267.
Sambandam, E., Rangaswami, K., & Thamizharasan, S.
(2014). Efficacy of ABA programme for children with autism to improve general
development, language and adaptive behaviour. Indian Journal of
Positive Psychology, 5(2), 192-195. Retrieved from http://library.capella.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.library.capella.edu/docview/1614029590?accountid=27965
United States Surgeon
General (1998). Mental health: A report of the Surgeon General. Washington, DC: