The Basics of Applied Behavior Analysis

April 9, 2020 • by Sarah McDonnell
The Basics of Applied Behavior Analysis

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a relatively new pursuit in the treatment of childhood behavior difficulties and developmental disabilities, but it has already emerged as the gold standard for many of these treatments—especially for disabilities associated with autism spectrum disorder. Here’s a little bit about the basics of ABA, and how Play Works’ expert behavior analysts can help your child gain the skills and confidence they need to build a strong foundation for life.

What is ABA?

ABA is an evidence-based therapy that utilizes the science of learning and behavior to shape and build positive or desired behaviors, while reducing instances of negative or unwanted behaviors. The science of behavior analysis focuses on principles about how behavior works and how learning takes place. The ABA interventions that make behavior reduction and skill acquisition possible are systematic, consistent, and incremental.

The goal of ABA therapy is to increase behaviors that are helpful, increasing independence and access to things/activities that are reinforcing, and decrease behaviors that are harmful, which affect learning, communication skills, or impede independent living. ABA has been demonstrated as the most effective means to treat the disabilities associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Additionally, Applied Behavior Analysis has also been shown to be an effective treatment for many conditions, such as OCD, ADD/ADHD, communication disorders, brain injury, and many developmental disabilities (DD).

At Play Works, we emphasize principles like positive reinforcement (rewarding a skill or behavior to increase the likelihood of that behavior happening again) and shaping (introducing change in small increments) to accelerate the adaptation of desired behaviors and skills. Maladaptive behaviors thus become less reinforcing and reduce in number/frequency without the need for any harsh or restrictive practices.


What does ABA look like at Play Works?

Play Works’ ABA program is unique to the gorge, in that it includes an emphasis on communication (verbal behavior), Natural Environment Training, incidental teaching, Discrete Trial Training, and an integrated-care approach. Our ABA team works alongside speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists in the treatment of learners. This multidisciplinary approach helps us address the individual needs of every one of our learners, and fosters better communication and better results. Our ABA facility also features a gym, class space, therapy rooms, and other features that help create a fun, functional, supportive, and engaging learning environment.

Each ABA treatment program at Play Works is under the direction of a qualified Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), who assesses each child and develops a treatment plan. They individualize the ABA program to each learner's skills, needs, interests, preferences and family situation. This developed program is then implemented by Behavior Technicians (BTs), who work one-on-one with each learner to help meet the behavior goals in the child’s treatment plan. BCBAs understand how human behaviors are learned and how they can be changed over time. Therefore, each learner’s treatment plan is constantly evaluated to make sure that they are receiving the best possible care and outcomes.

Because individuals face unique and different challenges associated with ASD, each child’s program at Play Works is created just for them! Every treatment program is evidenced-based, one-on-one and individualized to their needs and goals.

Lastly, an important part of a child’s growth is helping them use their new skills in their home and community. That’s why we provide quality parent trainings. As your child progresses through their program goals, the BCBA will meet regularly with your family and/or other care providers to teach you how to apply ABA principles at home.

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