Behavior Analysis and Treatment

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The theory suggests behavior can be changed through the use of reinforcement and punishment. B asic principles of operant conditioning have been applied to humans in real-life situations in order to modify behavior and solve problems of social importance.


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The implementation program is continuously monitored to evaluate its effectiveness. The behaviors targeted are observable, measurable, and usually of social relevance to the individual. ABA is founded on empirically validated learning principles , such as operant and classical conditioning. The emergence of ABA as a distinct scientific field occurred in the late s and s.

These dimensions helped give direction to the field and continue to guide practitioners today. Applied behavior analysis is a systematic process.

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Once the behavior to be modified is identified, it is measured and analyzed. This helps the therapist to determine the frequency of the behavior and any situational factors that may contribute to the behavior. Evaluations are done throughout the course of the intervention to determine its effectiveness, and strategies are modified as needed.

ABA is considered to be one of best approaches to the treatment of autism.

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Documented data supports the efficacy of this approach, and ABA has been used successfully to treat autism since the s, when programs were first developed for a classroom setting. Most children learn social and other developmental skills from observing and interacting with their caregivers and peers.

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As they master behaviors, well-trained therapists will start to take children into real-world settings where they can generalize the behaviors they have learned and incorporate them into ordinary social experiences. ABA can also be used, in one of its many forms, with older children, teens, or even adults. Discrete trials ABA is still in use in some settings, and for some children.

Other forms of ABA, however, are becoming increasingly popular. In addition, rather than providing therapy in a classroom or office, many therapists are now administering ABA in natural settings such as playgrounds, cafeterias, and community locations.

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This approach makes it easier for children to immediately use the skills they learn in a real-world situation. ABA is everywhere, it's often free, and it helps children with autism to use "expected" behaviors and control some of their more challenging impulses. These behavioral skills can make a big difference in how well your child manages school and social experiences.

But not every ABA therapist is well suited for the job, and not every child responds well to behavioral therapy. As with many approaches to autism, ABA is certainly worth a trial. Before getting started, however, be sure your child's therapist is trained, know how and where she will be working with your child, and work with your therapist to set up measurable goals.

Keep a close eye on the process and outcomes. Most importantly, be aware of your child's responses to the therapist and the therapy.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) with Children with Autism

Is she excited when she "gets to" work with her therapist? Is she responding to the therapist with smiles and engagement? Is she learning skills that are helping her in her daily life? If the answers are "yes," you're moving in the right direction. If not, it's time to reassess. Sign up for our Health Tip of the Day newsletter, and receive daily tips that will help you live your healthiest life.

Granpeesheh, D. Ann Clin Psychiatry.

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