Applied behavior Analysis (ABA) is based on principles of learning theory and is
derived from the principles of experimental psychology relating to increasing and decreasing behavior patterns. In brief, ABA methods are used to increase desirable adaptive behavior, decrease maladaptive behavior, teach new skills and extend and generalize sought after behaviors to new environments.
The focus of ABA is the collection of data concerning and relating to observable behavior in the home and out of the home. These measures must be reliable and the evaluation of the data objective and unbiased. These behaviors and the settings they occur in are chosen based on a prioritization of individual needs and behaviors balanced with parental desires, needs and capabilities.
Numerous studies have documented the benfits of ABA intervention for children with ASDs. Intensive behavioral intervention and treatment results in major cognitive, language, social and adaptive behavior gains. When the outcome of children who receive these services is compared to those who do not the children who receive the services perform and achieve substantially better for both short and long term outcomes.
One of the many techniques that comprise ABA is discrete trial training (DTT). The focus in DTT is on the teaching of readiness skills to the young child. These readiness
skills include attention, compliance, imitation and other skills. When DTT is pursued it is imperative that the learned behavior be extended to naturally occurring situations. This generalization is vital since the limited structured teaching environment does not represent typical home or out of home environments. DTT can be especially important, however, for those children who require an initial learning environment that is controlled (C) before progression to a naturalistic (N) and then a spontaneous with mentor (Sm) and eventually a spontaneous environment (CNSmS).
Your behavior therapist is able to increase the generalization of behaviors through the use of incidental teaching and pivotal response training. Incidental teaching is directed at a child’s interests and natural motivation to provide structured learning opportunities. Pivotal response training focuses on motivation and response to multiple cues. By focusing on these “pivotal behaviors” gains can be seen in other behaviors associated with language and social interaction.
Another aspect of behaviorally based treatment of unwanted behaviors is functional behavior analysis. Most problem behaviors serve an adaptive function and are reinforced by their consequences. The purposes include attaining something the child wants. This may be adult attention, a desired object or activity or it may serve as an escape mechanism to avoid an undesired situation or demand. In order to determine the sequence of events data is gathered in a comprehensive fashion to determine the antecedents to the undesired behavior. In this way the problem behavior is identified and described and the antecedents and consequences are determined. All environmental factors that may be effecting the child are determined and then a hypothesis about the motivating function of the behavior is made. The therapist and parents then collect data to test the hypothesis so a decision can be made about how behaviors can be altered. This same process is used to identify antecedents and consequences associated with positive behaviors so the same techniques can be used to accelerate other adaptive behaviors.