Embarking on the ABA Journey – Part 1

This is the first in a two-part blog targeted toward families considering Applied Behavior Analysis services for an individual with autism.

When a child receives a diagnosis of autism, families often experience shock, panic, and anxiety about what the future may hold. As time passes, a vast wave of accruing information may become overwhelming as it points in many different directions, toward various treatments and therapies that all claim to be helpful or even curative.

Once you have waded through this swell of information and advice–some helpful and some not so much–you may find yourself on the doorstep of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA is an evidence-based approach now considered “best-practice” for individuals with , autism. Research on this approach–more than 500 scholarly articles on the subject have been published over the past 25 years–indicates that ABA can assist individuals with learning communication, independent living, and social skills and can reduce challenging behaviors more effectively than other therapies can.

So what is ABA and why is it successful?

Executive Team

Research is ongoing and we are constantly making new discoveries about behavior, which will invariably shape the future of ABA services and continue to improve on current treatment outcomes. But one thing we know for sure: success depends upon the extent to which families learn and strictly adhere to the interventions and procedures that are prescribed in a client behavior plan.

ABA is not a quick or easy fix. It is not an hour, or even many hours, spent with a therapist working one-on-one with a child in an isolated treatment room, and the child then returning home with new skills and less challenging behaviors. Far from it.

It is, essentially, a new way of thinking and behaving for all individuals involved. The most seasoned and skilled behavior analyst will still rely heavily on the family’s commitment to treatment. From the beginning, those involved in the care of a child with autism who is receiving ABA services must set out to learn, become informed, and continue to educate themselves, in order to improve outcomes and assist the individual with meeting treatment goals.

ABA often requires lifestyle adjustments, either short or long term, that accommodate the interventions necessary to modify behavior and teach new skills. If a family is unable or resistant to accommodating those adaptations, the likelihood of successfully improving skills and/or reducing challenging behaviors across all settings is significantly reduced. In the case of some challenging behaviors, implementing a behavior intervention when the family and natural supports are unable or unwilling to adhere to treatment recommendations can prove even more harmful.

It is important that the family members educate themselves by asking questions, reading the relevant literature, and maintaining active involvement throughout the course of treatment.

If you decide to pursue ABA services, a door will open to many possibilities not otherwise  available. However, the journey does not end there.

The next installment of this two-part series will discuss what a family can do to maximize the treatment outcome potential for somebody receiving ABA services.

If you would like to discuss ABA services with a knowledgeable professional, one of our experienced Board Certified Behavior Analysts would be happy to answer your questions.  Please contact lucy.c.bargioni@grafton.org for more information about ABA services.