Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is widely accepted to be the most effective evidence-based treatment developed to date for children with autism. The structured teaching of functional skills (often called behaviour intervention) presently has the largest body of published research supporting its effectiveness.
ABA is the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviours to a meaningful degree, and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behaviour.
“Socially significant behaviours” include reading, academics, social skills, communication, and adaptive living skills. Adaptive living skills include gross and fine motor skills, eating and food preparation, toileting, dressing, personal self-care, domestic skills, time and punctuality, money and value, home and community orientation, and work skills.
to increase desirable behaviours (eg reinforcement procedures increase on-task behaviour, or social interactions);
to teach new skills (eg, systematic instruction and reinforcement procedures teach functional life skills, communication skills, or social skills);
to maintain behaviors (eg, teaching self control and self-monitoring procedures to maintain and generalize job-related social skills);
to generalize or to transfer behaviour from one situation or response to another (eg, from completing assignments in the resource room to performing as well in the mainstream classroom);
to restrict or narrow conditions under which interfering behaviors occur (eg, modifying the learning environment); and
to reduce interfering behaviours (eg, self injury or stereotypy).
There are three reasons to run an Applied Behaviour Analysis program for your child:
The first is that ABA is the ONLY science-based therapy available to treat behaviours associated with autism. It is the only treatment endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics; Office of the US Surgeon General and most State health authorities. Over 40 years of research and litigation have identified this treatment as medically necessary. Supreme Court of Canada (Auton, 2004) agreed that the science behind ABA was not in question. Thirty BC families initiated the landmark Auton case which sought a court order stating that failure to provide publicly funded, medically necessary behavioural treatment for individuals with autism constitutes discrimination and is a violation of the Charter’s section 15 equality provisions.
At the BC Supreme Court the families won and the government was ordered to pay for autism treatment. This is where our autism funding comes from today.
The second is that you want to give your child every opportunity to reach their best outcome. Control group – treatment group studies have shown that up to 47% of children with autism can recover to the point that they are indistinguishable from their peers. By “recovery” we mean that they do not require aides at school, they have friends, they enjoy all of life’s pleasures without assistance. We have seen many children reach their best outcome through quality Applied Behaviour Analysis. You want your child with autism to reach his or her fullest potential. It can be very difficult for children with autism to learn, and even more difficult if they have a lower IQ.
ABA can break tasks down to what ever level the child needs, so that learning is easier. All children doing ABA progress if they have a good consultant who can recognize their needs and design programs to target those needs. If progress is not being made, the data will show this and the consultant will implement a new tactic.
The third reason is that living with autism behaviours can be very hard on the family. ABA can help reduce or even eliminate undesirable behaviours of any kind (self injury, screaming, biting, extreme fears, rigidity, nose picking…). This can dramatically improve the quality of family life and the lower stress levels in parents. A strong, healthy family is the best gift we can give a child with autism.
Once you have an ABA consultant lined up, you will need to hire a team of Behaviour Interventionists (BIs) to work one-on-one with your child. See Connecting Families and Therapists below. New teams should start with 4 to 8 BIs as you may lose one or two within the first month. A child will often start with 20 hours and work up to nearly 40 within a few months.
Number of hours will be determined by your consultant. It is important that BIs have at least 3 shifts per week if they are new, so that they get experience intensively. This is a difficult balance to work out. You don’t want to be short of BIs, but you also need to offer enough hours to the BIs. Better to be overbooked, than loose therapy hours.
You can advertise for BIs on ASN’s Facebook group, ABA Therapists in BC, at local colleges or universities (preferably in the Psychology dept), Starbucks coffee shops, on Craigslist and on Support Worker Central.
Make sure to state:
- your child’s age
- where you live (insist applicants are within 15 km)
- Name of behaviour consultant
- hours available or flexibility etc
- any talents you want your child to learn
You need at least one experienced BI. See if your own consultant can recommend someone from their other families or check on ABA Therapists in BC. Otherwise, you can hire “green” BIs (those who don’t have any experience). One advantage to green BI’s is that the BI will be loyal to your family first and will usually stay longer on the team
We recommend you watch our Welcome To Autism Series on our Web Series Workshops page where we go over in more detail the information listed below. Usually your consultant will spend 8 hours or so assessing your child and developing programs, then he/she will meet with the new team and teach them how to deliver the programs.
If you have a lead therapist, that person can work with all BIs for the first month to make sure they are all delivering the programs consistently. This is less expensive than paying the consultant to do it, and just as effective (besides, the consultant probably won’t have time to do it).
The consultant can overlap the new therapist once they have been trained up, to tweak any outstanding issues.
To begin your family's journey with ABA, you will have to find a well qualified ABA consultant (sometimes called a Behaviour Analyst or BA or a Behaviour Consultant or BC). You will want a Board Certified Behaviour Consultant (BCBA) or a Board Certified assistant to a Behaviour Consultant (BCaBA). You can find behaviour consultants through the RASP list at Autism Information Services BC, but it is not easy to sort out who is well qualified and who isn’t. See the ASN’s Welcome to Autism Video (especially part 3) for what to look for in a Behaviour Consultant and whether to go with a Clinic setting or Home-based setting. You may also want to look at the ABA consumer guidelines to help you better understand what you want to look for. If you have narrowed down your choices for a consultant, you can ask for feedback from other parents on the ASN Closed Parent Facebook Group.
Once you have your team up and running, you will have to act as the child’s case manager. You will be the one to make sure everyone is doing their job and doing it well. This is not a job that parents have wanted to have, but your child’s team will work best if you are involved. You will need to “let go” of people who are not working out. This includes BI’s as well as consultants.
Always remember that you are not married to your consultant.If a BI is having difficulty, it might be they simply need more training. It is important to remember this. Growing a green BI is not easy, but the long term results can be fantastic.
AUTISM SUPPORT NETWORK BC
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