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What should parents expect from ABA-based treatment?

September 28, 2020

Happy African American family having fun in autumn day at the park. Father is piggybacking little girl.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the leading evidence-based treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). ABA uses supported evidence-based practices to create effective change in the lives of individuals affected by ASD. It is widely recognized as effective treatment for individuals with ASD recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General, the American Psychological Association (APA), and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Each learner is initially assessed by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) in the family’s home. The BCBA talks with family about their child and goals for treatment. Following the family interview, the BCBA conducts child observations and then administers formal assessments to assess behavior, language, and social skills. From the results of the initial assessment, the BCBA will create an individualized treatment plan for the learner. This treatment plan will be tailored according to the learner’s history, preferences, interests, needs, current skills, skill deficits, maladaptive behaviors, and include socially significant goals that are important to the learner and the family.

The treatment plan is then implemented by the Behavior Technician/Registered Behavior Technician (BT/RBT) with close treatment protocol modification and support from the assigned BCBA. During ABA sessions, the BT/RBT will use a variety of evidence-based strategies to teach the learner through Discrete Trial Training (DTT), Natural Environment Training (NET), or more likely a combination of both. Discrete Trial Training utilizes a highly structure teaching approach, which allows for multiple learning opportunities throughout the therapy session.

Natural Environment Training utilizes opportunities that occur in the natural environment such as during play or daily activities. Since treatment plans are tailored to the individual learner, teaching strategies are also individualized to the learner.

Changes in the learner’s behaviors and skills are measured through data collection by the BCBA and BT/RBT. Data help monitor the learner’s progress and decide whether behavior and program modification are necessary. The BCBA regularly meets with the family to review progress, adjust goals as needed, and for caregiver training to assist in implementation of the treatment plan.

Families play an important role in the success of ABA treatment. It is essential for caregivers to continue providing opportunities for the learner to practice target goals and behaviors outside of therapy sessions. Collaboration with the caregivers and the learner’s circle of support is necessary for sustained change.