Positive Reinforcement

Full Video – 9 minutes

Hello and welcome back. You’ve heard a lot about behavioral treatment and behavioral intervention and evidenced-based treatments for autism. As you know by now, it’s all based in ABA, or Applied Behavior Analysis.

In this video, we’re going to talk about the 5 things you should know about ABA.

Before we start, remember that behavior intervention based on ABA is the treatment for autism recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Surgeon General.

ABA is based on the science of behavioral psychology. Behavioral psychology focuses on behavior that can be seen and documented. Traditional psychology focuses on what an individual may be thinking, which can not be seen.

Later in this program you are going to learn about specific behavioral intervention techniques, based on ABA, and see demonstrations to help you put them into practice.

Right now, we’re going to quickly cover the five things you need to know about ABA.

1. ABA for Autism Isn’t “One Size Fits All”

A professional behavioral therapist, trained and certified in ABA, will develop an individualized plan for the specific needs of each child. In all cases, however, they will measure the child’s observable progress learning specific skills, such as making a snack or using words. The behavioral therapist will chart these observable results to clearly see what is working and what is not.

ABA can help improve children’s communication skills, sharpen focus and attention, develop social skills and more. It is a fully customizable approach that allows therapists to be creative and adjust to the needs of the child, which increases the possibility of bringing about meaningful and positive change.

2. Progress Is Measured Over Time

When a child with ASD first begins a behavioral treatment, or ABA, plan, his or her therapist will identify individual goals. Therapists typically begin with simple, manageable goals, and then move onto more complex goals.

As the treatment plan progresses, therapists record specific results – or data, which they share with other advisors, as well as with parents and caregivers.

The data shows the therapist and parent how well the child is progressing, and how and when adjustments should be made to the treatment plan.

Consistently monitoring children’s progress is a key factor in ABA’s success. As their needs fluctuate, a child’s treatment plan is adjusted.

3. Learning Happens Everywhere

Although parents and caregivers may bring children to a clinic or may get therapy services in their home, it’s important to know that learning happens everywhere and all the time. This is a crucial part of the ABA philosophy.

Children can perform a task or skill with the support of their therapist, and should then practice their newly acquired skills in a variety of different environments. Going out into the “real world,” like the library, the playground or a restaurant gives children the chance to transfer their new skills to real life. This is what’s known as “generalization” and it’s a very important part of success.   

Parents are absolutely crucial to the success of an ABA or behavioral intervention program because they spend more time than anyone with their children and they know their children better than anyone else. 

Parents and caregivers must understand the skills their children are learning and should help the child generalize those skills.

4. ABA Isn’t About Punishment

Boiled down, ABA rewards preferred behaviors and gives consequences for undesired behaviors. Some people misunderstand what “consequences” means in this context.

It’s especially important to understand that ABA for autism is not about punishing children with autism when they demonstrate undesired behavior.

ABA therapists often use positive reinforcement to reward desired behaviors, but consequences might simply be the withholding of that positive reinforcement or reward. Learning within the ABA environment should be positive and enjoyable, helping children want to learn and grow.

5. Parental Reinforcement of ABA in the Home is Crucial

Parental involvement in ABA therapy is critical to its success. Sharing insight on the behaviors, triggers, responses, and preferences of your child will enable your child’s therapist to create an effective treatment plan and guide adjustments to the treatment plan ongoing.

Parents are crucial to helping their kids generalize the skills they are learning. Parents are in the best position to expose children to real-world situations in which they apply their newly developed skills. 

Many ABA therapy programs will offer regular sessions for parents, during which they train parents to support their children’s learning and skills maintenance at home.