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What is ABA therapy?

Maria Mora is a freelance writer and single mom fueled by coffee, questionable time management skills, toaster oven waffles and the color orange. She lives in Florida with her two young sons. If you see her on Twitter, tell her to stop p...

Help for kids with autism and ADHD

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a therapy often used with children on the autism spectrum. Learn how this time-consuming and controversial therapy helps many families overcome behavior challenges.
ABA therapy for autism

Children with autism and children with ADHD often need guidance when it comes to behavior. Problem behaviors such as impulsivity and aggression as well as behaviors that are considered skills, such as social skills and self-care, are all behaviors that can be influenced by Applied Behavior Analysis. Learn more about ABA for kids and teens.

What does Applied Behavior Analysis mean?

“ABA is the science of understanding, predicting and changing behaviors using a systematic and data-based approach,” says Bernadette Flynn Ed.D., executive director of the New York League for Early Learning. “Using this approach, positive behaviors can be increased, negative behaviors decreased and new behaviors learned.” Most parents aren’t naturally equipped to teach and modify behaviors. ABA helps parents and kids through proven methods of instruction.

Is Applied Behavior Analysis safe?

ABA has been recommended as a safe treatment for autism by the U.S. Surgeon General. It’s not a “cure” for autism. “ABA principles and techniques foster basic skills such as communication, social relationships, play, self-care, academic tasks and even employment, by using a positive reinforcement approach,” says Jill Krata, Ph.D., manager of clinical services of the Autism Center at YAI Network. “ABA has been widely used to help people with autism live happy and productive lives and the primary focus of this therapy is to bring about meaningful and positive change in behavior.”

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How does Applied Behavior Analysis work?

ABA therapy generally centers around positive reinforcement targeting specific behaviors. The approach is customized for each child based on the needs that are determined by the parents and therapist. Children with severe forms of autism may be recommended for intensive therapy for many hours a week, while other kids may be better off visiting a therapist once or twice a week for a few months. The key is consistency at home and between all caregivers. ABA therapy is a lot of work, and it’s important for caretakers to be fully committed.

How do you get started with ABA therapy?

Talk to your child’s primary care physician as well as your insurance carrier. ABA therapy can be very expensive and it's not always covered by insurance. If cost is an issue, consider looking into grants and local organizations that can help sponsor your child. Your child’s ABA therapist may work with you in your home or at a therapy center. In many cases, it helps to observe the child in his own environment, so that behavior is natural. After you and your child’s ABA therapist develop a game plan, you’ll get to work. Your child’s therapy plan may mean adjusting the structure of your everyday life, the way you discipline your child or adjusting your expectations.

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