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July 23, 2021

How ABA Therapy Can Help Your Child Thrive

One of the biggests challenges I had in the beginning was trying to find a therapist that would help my children learn how to handle their anxiety. My kids would go to therapy and have good sessions but were not able to use the therapist’s suggestions in real life situations. However, I realized that there are different therapy methods, specifically ABA therapy. 

I’ll never forget the first time my son Asar used the methods he learned in ABA therapy to bring down his anxiety. On our ride home after school he said, “Mommy, when I was at school and the kids started to make fun of me. I was really scared and my anxiety was up. I did what the therapist  told me and breathed.” I felt so happy that he was able to help himself, due to ABA therapy.

What is ABA therapy?

ABA stands for Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy. It’s an approach to understanding how children learn while teaching them how to positively react to community stimuli. Though ABA therapy is mostly used for children on the autism spectrum, it can also be used to help with anger issues, anxiety-related challenges, eating disorders and dementia. 

ABA Therapy in Action

The first thing you need to understand is the frequency of ABA therapy. It’s not an hour per week type of therapy. Because ABA therapy tells how behavior is affected by a child’s surroundings and how learning takes place, there needs to be consistent observation for the therapy to be effective. 

The hours needed may differ since ABA therapy is tailored per child as it’s not a one-size-fits-all plan of action. Your child will be assessed based on goals, needs, skills, interests, preferences and family life to customize their program. Customization also includes if ABA therapy is better in-home or in-school/center-based. The least number of weekly hours determined, the more hands-on the parent/caregiver/assistant must be during therapy time.

ABA therapy has two main strategies as its functions:

  1. Positive Reinforcement

  2. The A-B-Cs (Antecedent, Behavior, Consequences)

The idea is for your child to replace inappropriate behavior with appropriate, helpful behavior. This is a learned practice which is why ABA therapy usually requires many hours per week. Repetition is one of the most powerful practices for mastering new skills and enhancing abilities. It’s also the best way to learn a new song. 😊 

What’s the A-B-C Process?

A is for Antecedent: What happens before the target action is to take place. This could be a command or request and everything surrounding the command or request. It is the stimuli portion of the process.

B is for Behavior: The target action (behavior) or the response to the antecedent in detail. The response could be verbal, non-verbal or physical.

C is for Consequence: A response to the response. It’s the antecedent’s response to the behavior. This will either be positive reinforcement by reward for the correct behavior or it will be an unwelcomed response that doesn’t receive a reward. 

An example of the A-B-C process without reward:

  • Antecedent: Mom says, “Rhonda, it’s time to make your bed.”

  • Behavior: Rhonda walks into the kitchen and gets ice cream.

  • Consequence: Mom tells Rhonda she can’t have ice cream until her bed is made and takes the ice cream from Rhonda.

An example of the A-B-C process with positive reinforcement:

  • Antecedent: Dad and son are watching TV and Dad says, “Son, it’s time to wash the dishes.” 

  • Behavior: The son leaves the room and washes the dishes.

  • Consequence: Dad thanks his son for completing his chore and tells him how proud he is of him for taking initiative and being accountable.

These were simple and extremely basic examples. The situations can be more intense or just as basic. It truly depends on your child and the goals to be met. 

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Benefits of ABA Therapy

ABA therapy has many benefits to help your child be a better version of themselves, not allowing autism to control them. 

ABA therapy:

  • Improves communication

  • Reduces attention deficit by increasing focus

  • Reduces tantrums and outbursts

  • Builds self-esteem/self-confidence

  • Improves self-care

The main goals of ABA therapy are for each child to have positive reactions to everyday stimuli, become independent and successful. With such a progressive method, these five benefits are sure to help your child succeed as an independent. 

Listen to how Kabrena Williams uses ABA therapy to help parents focus on their own self-care in The Parenting Cipher’s, season 2 episode 4, “Buy Back The Block.”

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