What to Expect from Your First ABA Therapy Session

Teacher playing blocks with little girl

So, a loved one got diagnosed with autism. One of the more commonly practiced therapies for individuals with autism is the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). But where do you even begin? What to do first? Where do you find ABA therapy in New York? We break down ABA and things you can expect from undergoing this form of therapy.

What ABA can help with

ABA can help individuals improve certain behaviors like communication and social skills, and even adaptive learning skills like grooming, punctuality, and domestic capabilities. This is effective for children and adults with psychological disorders to function well in different life settings, like school and work. Studies have also shown that consistent treatment can improve skills and behaviors over time, and decrease the need for special services.

Does it really work?

This therapy is considered an evidence-based best practice treatment by the American Psychological Association (APA) and the US Surgeon General. This means that ABA has passed criteria of usefulness, quality, and effectiveness. More than 20 studies have established that intensive and continuous ABA therapy improves the outcomes for many, but not all, children with autism. These studies show improvement in intelligence, language, domestic skills, and socialization. There are also a few studies that suggest adults who have used the ABA principles have shown similar benefits.

How it works

There are many techniques used to understand behavior, making ABA a flexible treatment. This can be adapted to the needs of each person, provided in different locations and can involve one-to-one or group instruction.

One of the main strategies is positive reinforcement. The theory is that when a behavior is followed by something that has value, often a reward, a person is more likely to repeat that behavior. Over time, this encourages a positive change in behavior. Positive rewards encourages the person to continue using the skill.

Another strategy is Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence (A-B-C). To understand a behavior, one must understand the antecedent (what happens before the behavior) and the consequences (what happens after the behavior). Understanding A-B-C can determine why a behavior happens, and how different consequences could affect the behavior.

What to expect

Little girl reading a book

You can expect the therapist to measure behavior and help the individual gain positive social behavior. The individual may also start to learn new skills and use them outside the therapy setting.

When looking for a therapist, find a behavior analyst that’s a licensed clinical therapist. They are often identified by the initials BCBA after their name. This means that they are Board-Certified Behavior Analysts with the proper training and education.

When you work with an ABA therapist, you can determine behaviors that need to change, set up goals and expected outcomes, and establish ways to see improvement. They can also evaluate the individual’s current situation, regularly review progress and determine if further treatment is necessary. They can also help determine how long the treatment will go for, depending on the severity of the problem and the individual’s rate of improvement.

With the right intervention through the use of ABA therapy, individuals can improve their behaviors and gain skills so they can function well in society.

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