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FAQs

Questions we’ve heard from families like yours
What is ABA and how does it work?

Applied behavior analysis is the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree, and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behavior (Baer, Wolf & Risley, 1968; Sulzer-Azaroff & Mayer, 1991).
These improvements in behavior are accomplished by breaking behaviors down in their component parts of Discriminantive Stimulus (Sd), Response (R), and Reinforcing Stimulus (Sr) and tapping into motivation to adjust behaviors step by step so that over time desirable behaviors are increased and undesirable behaviors are decreased. Good ABA is done by reducing the prompts so that the Sd’s and Sr’s become more and more natural over time.

How much therapy should my child get?

When the goal is to change developmental trajectories to match that of typically developing peers, research, including several meta-analyses, show that 30-40 hours per week (6-7 hours daily, 5-6 days/week) of intensive ABA treatment is needed. Hours generally decrease as the client progresses in independence and generalizes behavioral changes to other critical settings.

Studies have shown that the brain’s plasticity is the highest between age 1 and 10 and that the more therapy a child can get at that age, the better. Your child may need to develop focus and attention skills to benefit from more than an hour or two at a time or they may be able to make progress in 3-4 hour sessions.

We develop each child’s Care Plan individually and make recommendations based upon your child’s individual goals and development.  We do require a minimum of 12 hours/week of therapy in order to achieve measurable progress.

Who is a BCBA and why do I need one?

A Board Certified Behavior Analyst is a trained behavior analyst who holds a masters degree in behavior therapy and has passed the national BCBA board certification examination. A BCBA conducts descriptive and systematic (e.g., analogue) behavioral assessments, including functional analyses, and provides behavior analytic interpretations of the results.
A BCBA designs and supervises behavior analytic interventions. BCBAs effectively develop and implement appropriate assessments and intervention methods for use in unfamiliar situations and for a range of cases. The BCBA teaches others including parents to carry out ethical and effective behavior analytic interventions based on published research and designs and delivers instruction in behavior analysis.

Autism Home Support Services BCBAs supervise the work of Care Team Members to assure that effective interventions are being performed, appropriate methodologies are being used, and progress is being made. By having a BCBA, you are assuring that your ABA program is professionally designed and managed.

What qualities should I look for in a therapist?

Great ABA therapists are both empathetic and analytic. They are able to connect with children with warmth and playfulness while having curiosity to understand what makes people tick. The ideal therapist is reliable, creative, patient, consistent, and persistent.

What does an ABA session look like?

An ABA session is typically a high energy interaction between the client and the therapist.
ABA sessions include some discrete trial work which might occur at the table, lots of positive reinforcement using whatever is motivating for the child: praise, tickles, hugs, high-fives, opportunities to play, sometimes edibles. Often there will be a mix of tasks that the therapist is practicing in order to assure that there is focus and mastery vs. rote repetition or boredom.
In order to be successful, the therapist must develop rapport with the client. A process of pairing with reinforcement will take place during a portion of the session. Generalization is very important for children with autism as well. A portion of the session will be spent in the natural environment, away from the table, doing incidental teaching of skills. If the child doesn’t like the therapist, he or she won’t do what the therapist directs them to do, so establishing that relationship is a critical first step.

My child doesn't sit at the table at all. Will ABA still work with him?

ABA does not require “table time”.
Good ABA therapists follow a child’s motivation in order to develop and shape behaviors effectively. If the child is motivated on the floor, that may be where therapy begins. To develop highly functional skills over time, it may be helpful to build the ability to work at the table and attention to task at the table can be developed over time.

How does ABA help language and communication?

ABA therapy stresses receptive, and expressive language skills by working on structured programs to measure vocabulary and expand capabilities in matching features and functions.

ABA goes beyond what a speech therapist does by mixing language programs with play programs, academic programs, motor skills, and activities of daily living such as toileting. ABA teaches all of the verbal operants or functional units of language as described by Skinner in his book Verbal Behavior.

When these units of language are systematically taught using principles of ABA, a child with autism benefits through an increase in receptive and expressive language, including communication, or requesting.

Is ABA the same as VB?

Verbal Behavior (VB) is ABA with a focus on B.F. Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior; it is the application of the science of behavior analysis to teaching verbal behavior. In his study of Verbal Behavior, B.F. Skinner describes a group of verbal operants, or functional units of language including:

a. echoics – saying what you have heard

b. mands – requesting

c. tacts – labeling something you have seen

d. intraverbals – discussing things which aren’t present

Another principle of VB is capturing a child’s motivation to develop a connection between the meaning or value of a word and the word or label. Therefore, the key is teaching the child that “words” are valuable and lead them to getting their wants and needs met.

I've heard children who undergo intensive ABA talk like 'robots'. Is that true?

The way to ensure that children don’t respond robotically is to work on the child being able to perform the skills in a generalized setting away from the table with a variety of people, in a natural way. This is done through incidental teaching in the natural environment (around the house, outside, in the community). Incidental teaching structures and sequences educational objectives so that they occur within ongoing, typical activities. Incidental teaching also takes advantage of student interests and motivation.

Will my child ever talk?

Children on the autism spectrum have an amazing ability to develop. Many will develop babbling vocalizations that can eventually be shaped into language. Nevertheless, there are many other functional means of communicating including using pictures, gestures, and sign language. Adaptive technology is also available and becoming more cost effective and cheaper through mobile applications, cellphones, I-pads, I-pods, and other tools. We encourage every parent to find ways to enable your child to express him or herself whether they develop the motivation and ability to speak or use other means to communicate.

Why is imitation an important skill for my child to learn?

Neuro-typical kids often expand their capabilities by following the lead of their peers or adults. Children on the autism spectrum need to “learn how to learn”. Imitation can be one of the most efficient and effective ways of building skills. Once a child picks up imitation as a core skill, they can build other skills more quickly.

Why is matching an important skill for my child to learn?

Matching is one of the brains core skills for analyzing information. When children can identify which things “fit” with other things, they have a pre-requisite for other things such as sorting and counting which can eventually lead to higher executive functions.

How does ABA help build social interaction skills?

ABA assists in developing social interaction skills when working on programs related to turn-taking, conversation and other skills that neuro-typical kids may pick up naturally. By identifying those individual areas where a child on the spectrum has deficits and building the developmental skills using ABA, social skills can be remediated.

What is a token system and how does it work?

Token systems are used to assist in creating motivations to reward kids for desired behaviors. They can be very useful in assisting children in developing self-discipline, understanding delayed gratification, and building other skills in order to earn tokens.

My child gets very angry and aggressive when things don't go his way. What should I do?

Learning to take turns, to wait, and that you can’t always have what you want can be very difficult. It is important to develop consistent rules for what is acceptable behavior and what is allowable. When an incident occurs where your child doesn’t get what he wants and gets angry, it’s important to help him express his frustration in acceptable ways such as using words to describe what he would like versus being aggressive.

Providing choices for what he CAN have so that he can make a more favorable choice and then positively reinforcing that choice with praise or other reward can help him learn to control his emotions and make better choices.

Why do I need to use reinforcers with my child?

All behavior is reinforced positively or negatively by what happens after the behavior. By using reinforcers such as praise, access to toys, or allowing preferred activities, you have the ability to influence your child’s behavior in ways that provide you with more control and help your child develop more self control over their behavior.

How important is learning academics for my child?

It depends on what your goals are for your child and what your child’s unique skills and deficits are. In some cases, social skills and activities of daily living may make a bigger difference in their ability to lead full lives. In other cases, further focus via ABA on academic skills might enhance a passion that they have that could lead to career skills or the ability to hold a job. ABA could further focus skills in the same way that Temple Grandin’s interest in data ultimately led her to be an animal scientist.

What is Discrete Trial?

A Discrete Trial is an individual observation of an Sd->R pair. When practitioners such as Skinner pioneered ABA, they developed Discrete Trial Training strategies where children with ASD were conditioned to respond by repeating Sd-R-Sr combinations to achieve desired behaviors. Discrete Trial is one of many powerful forms of teaching.

Find out more!

ABA therapy questions

We work with a little girl who displays attention-seeking behaviors with her parents. CTM Tiffany has been helping mom with redirection as well as teaching her how to implement an individual activity schedule we utilize during sessions. Mom and Dad have both expressed how much better weekends are and how they are seeing a reduced amount of attention-seeking behavior since they began to implement the IAS on their own!! Great Job!!

Stephanie Ciaravolo, BCBA Specialist, AHSS

shared this story on a female client

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