If you are involved with a child with autism one term I am sure you are familiar with through your knowledge, skill, and experience is ABA Therapy. Unfortunately this term comes with a large order of questions.
What is ABA Therapy? Do you need to take your child into a specialist center for this type of service? Does your child need an ABA Therapist? Is ABA Therapy something you can perform at home? This last question is one that is regularly asked and the good news is that the answer is “yes”.
Technically phrased as Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy. Whew! That is a mouthful! Luckily for us ABA Therapy is easier to do than it is to say.
Yes, you did read that right and you can read it again because I know you do not get to hear that, that often! So what is ABA?
ABA is a concept based on Operant Conditioning and is highly focussed around Positive and Negative Reinforcement. If you can get the handle on Operant Conditioning and what it does/is then ABA is just a hop, skip and a jump from there. If you’re still unsure, this guide offers a helpful overview of what ABA is and how it works.
I want to practice ABA at home: how do I start?
So, now we know what ABA is and we know it’s possible to do ABA therapy at home, let’s break things down further.
ABA Therapy, and autism therapy in general, can be expensive, which is why some families choose to take a free ABA therapy at home at-home approach. ABA Therapy doesn’t require a ton of skill to perform. It is breaking a behavior down and then rebuilding it with blocks that help it stand strong. You do not need years of schooling, just general knowledge, time, effort, and to be honest a ton of patience.
If you are to try some techniques from home I would encourage you to explore and educate yourself with the different approaches, ideas, and teachings that are used in performing ABA Therapy. Focus on:
- Task Analysis
- Functional Behavioral Analysis (FBA)
- Functional Communication Training (FCT)
Also familiarize yourself with Operant Conditioning and Reinforcement. This article from Very Well Health has good information regarding online resources and training for ABA techniques.
Using positive and negative reinforcement
As previously mentioned, the main area of focus for ABA is Reinforcement. Positive Reinforcement and Negative Reinforcement are both concepts which can be applied with your child in the home.
Positive reinforcers are something that you like or want which is given to you after you present a specific desired behavior. Negative reinforcers are something you don’t like or want which is taken away to reinforce a behavior.
Keep in mind Positive reinforcement adds (+) something and Negative reinforcement subtracts (-) something. ABA is performed by using the Acronym ABC otherwise known as the ABC’s of ABA:
A – Antecedent – What is to be done, what is causing “the behavior ”
B – Behavior – What is done because of the Antecedent, what “they” do
C – Consequence – What is causing the behavior to continue, what reinforces it
If you look at the Antecedent and the Behavior (A and B) they are usually linked. Changing the Consequence should change the way the Behavior is linked to the Antecedent.
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Focus on tackling one behavior at a time
I want to stress with you that ABA Therapy is for working on one specific skill set. You take one thing, one behavior or skill you wish to see changed or learned, and that is your focus for your therapy. Yes, you can work on more than one skill or behavior at a time but each behavior or skill will have its own plan/treatment – it’s important to bear this in mind when trying home based therapy.
Let’s break it down using the example of: your school age child with autism has hit your other school aged child. We will be going down the list of the ABCs of ABA to try to set up a proper plan for when this happens.
A – The trigger or task that caused the behavior. Why was this [behavior] done? For attention or out of anger/anxiety.
- Ex: we will use out of anger/anxiety
B – In regards to their behavior, what do you want to change?
- Ex: we would like to change their act of violence (hitting) by providing them an effective way to properly calm down/deescalate.
C – Choose a plan of attack: will you use Positive or Negative Reinforcement?
- How will you use the reinforcement?: I will provide the de-escalation tactic of counting to ten and taking three deep slow breaths when the child becomes upset before engaging with another individual
- This would be adding in a de-escalation technique. This would be positive reinforcement.
Implementing your ABA Strategies
With a game plan set you need to implement your strategies and collect your data. ABA Therapy has been defined as a “scientific approach to understanding behavior… Decisions regarding the effectiveness of the intervention are based on data collected. Based on the data analysis, the parent or interventionist may choose to continue with the intervention or change the intervention to produce positive outcomes for the individual”.
1. implement intervention
2. data collection
3. analyze data
This is where you learn the term BCBA or Board Certified Behavioral Analyst (someone who specializes in ABA Therapy), or an “approved” facility which offers ABA Programs for your child on the autism spectrum to attend. You might want to consider these analysts or facilities to perform ABA Therapy for you in addition to you supporting the process in the home.
However you decide to perform ABA, it is likely to work its way into your home. The main goal of most autism parents is to teach self sufficiency and independent living. Life skills become so important, if you’re doing ABA it has to follow you home.
How to do ABA Therapy is a choice that can only be made by your individual family. There are many differing life factors from family to family. It is whatever works for you. Is it possible to do it from home? We’ve established the answer is “yes”. You will find you probably already perform ABA Therapy to some point as it is already.
ABA Therapy is performed in many different places (it needs to be), there is no correct who just a correct how.
- Rudy, Lisa Jo.(2020, Sept.03) 6 Autism Therapies Parents Can Provide in their home. Retrieved from: https://www.verywellhealth.com/low-cost-autism-therapies-parents-ca n-provide-at-home-4172365
- SpecialLearning,Inc.(n.d.) Bringing ABA Into Your Home. Retrieved from:
- Hendricks, Dawn, Ph.D., Palko,Susan, M.Ed., and Dreyfus, Adam., MA, BCBA. (n.d.) Autism Q & A: What is Applied Behavior Analysis? Retrieved from: https://vcuautismcenter.org/resources/factsheets/printView.cfm/982
- Cherry, Kendra. (2020, June 04.) What is Operant Conditioning and how does it work? Retrieved from: https://www.verywellmind.com/operant-conditioning-a2-2794863#:~:text=Operant%20conditioning%2C%20sometimes%20referred%20to, or%20positive
- Psychology. (n.d.) Applied Behavior Analysis. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/therapy-types/applied-behavior-analysis