Behavior Analytic Services (Applied Behavior Analysis, ABA)

A Guide to ABA Therapy for Children with Autism

The single most effective therapy for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder is based on the scientific principles of Applied Behavior Analysis, otherwise known as ABA. The studies on children with ASD are very clear starting as soon as possible with intensive ABA has positive and powerful effects on behavior, and relationships with family and friends, their performance at school and interactions with others.

ABA is a scientific discipline, not just a single therapy. The science of ABA can be used to achieve specific goals in communication, social interaction and behavior changes. When applied in a child-centered environment in an individualized manner, ABA based therapy can significantly improve the opportunities for success and quality of life for both children with Autism and their families.

Using ABA, plans of care are regularly updated to accommodate the child’s improved skills and behaviors. One of the premier goals of treatment is to help the child acquire the skills and flexibility to function successfully amid the challenges and variations in day to day life.

Depending on the needs of the child, ABA can help increase and maintain communication and language, intellectual function and socially important behaviors, including attention, situational awareness, adaptive skills, interaction and relationship management, and academic performance. At the same time ABA therapy can assist in reducing disruptive, destructive, aggressive and significantly repetitive behaviors as well as a reduction in family stress and conflict.

Children with ASD who have received intensive ABA better integrate into school and can maintain gains in adaptive behavior over long periods of time. Some have even progressed to what is referred to as “optimal outcomes”. Optimal Outcomes can include entering the school system without requiring special services or support and they have an increased likelihood of independent living later in life.

Extensively research for over 30 years, ABA is one of the most successful methods if treatment for children with ASD.

At Albert Knapp & Associates we deliver effective applied behavior analysis (ABA) treatment programs to help children with autism and other special needs reach their potential, as well as a comprehensive ABA training program for parents so that they can confidently participate in the treatment programs. Our services include Social Skills Learning.

About Autism

Autism is just one of many words used to describe a wide range of certain atypical behaviors and patterns of social interaction and communication.

Children who have ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) have difficulties with communication, social interaction and behavior, language-using and understanding language and non-verbal behavior, and interpreting cues and symbols in their environment, social Interaction- making connections, building relationships, and understanding intents, desires, and shared experiences. They also experience behavior-emotions management, frustration tolerance, repetitive actions and sensory problems.

Symptoms will range from mild to severe. The way these problems show themselves in any given person is affected by that person’s developmental stage, and their personal temperament. In some children ASD is connected to other medical issues or developmental behaviors and educational disabilities.

Studies on children with Autism are very clear on the point that starting as soon as possible with intensive behavioral therapy has powerful positive effects on the child’s behavior and the child’s relationships with family and friends.  Their performance in school and their interactions with others. Intensive behavioral treatment can result in substantial gain for a large percentage of the children with ASD. initially to reduce or eliminate disruptive behaviors that interfere with the child’s developmental progress.

The ABA treatment plan is developed based on a comprehensive assessment by a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst, or BCBA. The assessment is designed to identify child specific needs and challenges, set individualized goals based on the child’s developmental needs and increase the child’s capacity to function and interact in their world.

  • The broad goals that we hope to reach when treating ASD with ABA are:
  • The child reaches the highest level of functionality that is possible
  • Support for the child’s ongoing developmental and education progress.
  • Sustaining positive and productive behaviors, communications skills, and patterns of social interaction once ABA therapy has been stopped.
  • Developing skills that are generalizable to new situations.

The Assessment Process

The assessment process should include but is not limited to the following seven items. Each has its own importance.

  1. A comprehensive interview with the parents or guardians of the child to understand their goals and aspirations for therapy,
  2. A detailed review of the child’s medical, social, educational, and developmental history,
  3. A detailed review of the available diagnostic and psychoeducational testing,
  4. Interviews with family members,
  5. Behavioral observations of the child,
  6. Formal testing using appropriate validated autism assessment tools,
  7. As needed, a Functional Behavioral Assessment may be conducted to evaluate behavioral barriers to treatment success.

At the end of the assessment the BCBA can develop a Treatment Plan which will specify goals and define the interactions that will happen during therapy.  The BCBA will also have a re-assessment and plan review to be conducted every six months.

How Does It Work

There are two basic types of treatment plans, Comprehensive and Focused Treatment. The outcomes are directly related to the intensity of the services delivered.

A Comprehensive Treatment Plans considers the whole child and the focus is on producing changes in skills that impact functioning, including communication, adaptive skills, social functioning, learning and behavior. Intensive behavioral interventions is associated with reduced need for special services or supports in school and increased likelihood of independent living later in life. The research supports a plan that includes 25-40 hours per week of therapy based on the principles of ABA for an extended period.

Focused Treat Plans are less intensive in nature (10-25 hours per week) and focus on narrowing targeted skills or disruptive behaviors. Focused treatment maybe required to establish a foundation of for the capacity to handle comprehensive treatment, however, whenever appropriate children should be offered a comprehensive treatment plan as soon as possible.

What are the factors that contribute the most to success with ABA therapy?

All ABA services need intensity, continuity and family involvement with the treatment to achieve good outcomes for the children and their families. At times these factors will contribute to a lesser need for special services in education.

Unlike other behavioral or developmental conditions, ASD when treated with ABA requires higher levels of intensity usually defined as hours per week. Service levels are determined by treatment goals and the ambition for the outcome.

Research has proven that starting as soon as possible with intensive behavioral analytic intervention for 25-40 hours per week for 12 months is associated with substantial, sustained gains in IQ, language, academic performance and adaptive behavior as well as some measures of social behavior.

The research on ABA interventions has many references to evidence that 10 hours per week or less are ineffective, except for highly targeted goals or higher functioning children. In addition, many studies show that children who receive less than 20 hours per week or do not keep a regular schedule, do not progress as well as children who regularly receive 25-40 hours of ABA therapy per week. Because of the complexity of ASD, to achieve a positive outcome, it is recommended that services continue for 12 months of the year. Optimal Outcomes require ABA based therapies to continue for an extended time in some cases. It can be extended 2 to 3 years. Progress is negatively affected when there are frequent cancellations or significantly reduced hours.

A major component of ABA is a high level of family involvement, in terms of identifying the treatment goals and being engaged in the process of therapy. Family members should participate in family training sessions so that they can extend the child’s treatment and use the skills learned to support the child’s success at home, in school and in the world. Many studies show that children who received ABA with active parental involvement showed better gains than those who only received ABA through their professional team. Learning and integrating ABA techniques into family life will require some work, but the family will be rewarded with improved family function and reduced family stress.

At Albert Knapp & Associates we extensively train our clinical staff members so that they have the necessary skills to effectively help children with a range of behavior challenges. Our Supervisors have demonstrated proficiency is using ABA methods to improve the behaviors of children with Autism and other special needs. Given the importance of early intervention, we are committed to using researched based ABA methods to ensure that the child is progressing at the fastest rate possible. We strive to use the most up-to-date, accurate and effective ABA methods available to help our clients succeed. Every child is unique and therefore every treatment plan is individualized to the child’s needs. The behavior supervisors continually monitor the child’s ABA treatment program so that the details of the child’s individual needs are fully understood and targeted.

At Albert Knapp & Associates we provide behavior supervision of the child’s ABA treatment program from our Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) who assess the child’s needs, designs the behavioral intervention plan, trains the parents and behavior technician on how to implement the plan and update the plan for optimum results.