Characteristics of Effective ABA

1. Intensive: Typically, more than 20 hours per week

2. Early: ABA should start as early after diagnosis as possible (ideally by age 2 or 3) so that a child can maximize their gains by the time they would enter school and before they reach age 6 when IQ become relatively permanent. Also, the earlier a child starts ABA, the less learning history ABA has to compete with.

3. Developmental in sequence: ABA addresses the skills child needs a cross a wide range of developmental domains. It teacher these skills in such a way that ABA first addresses identified beginner level and prerequisite skills that are missing in each domain before proceeding to more advanced skills even when those skills are possessed by typically developing peers or the same age.

4. Individualized: Every child with autism has different behaviour excesses and deficits across as wide range of developmental domains. A “one-size-fits all” treatment is not possible as treatment must be adopted to fit the specific needs of each child to be effective.

5. Addresses challenging behaviours by function: A key component of any treatment based on the principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is that it addresses challenging behaviours based on function rather than topography. In other words, when looking to see a decrease in a challenging behaviour and an increase in an appropriate one, strategies are based on why challenging behaviour occurs. (e.g., attention, access to TV, escape) rather than on what it looks like (e.g., crying or hitting).

6. Frequent and comprehensive data collection: Data are collected on all behaviours targeted for increase or decrease to identify at any given moment whether ABA programming is causing a change or not. These data are typically graphed to take advantage of the benefits of visual analysis. Many ABA providers will review graphed data one or more times per day to make treatment revisions.

7. Programs for generalization: Research shows that behaviours taught or eliminated during ABA do not automatically transfer to the natural environment. Effective generalization requires that a child’s ABA programming build in practicing the skills they are learning with multiple people in different places under various circumstances as well as teaching multiple response topographies that serve the same function (e.g., various ways to greet someone).

8. Involves parents: Parent involvement can. Have a big impact on the success of ABA. They are a rich source of information on their child and can help the ABA team identify behaviours to target for increase or decrease as well as help identify the function of challenging behaviours. They also play a key role in prompting generalization and reinforcing appropriate behaviours in the natural environment.

9. Provides a stream of service: As a child progresses in ABA they need to move from less restrictive and intensive learning environment and methodologies. A child may start in ABA in a home program getting one-to-one discrete trial training, but as they gaining more skills, they need to be able to move to. An environment where they have the opportunity to begin developing social skills and start receiving instruction in groups that require them to do more with less support. The end goal is to have a child able to transition into the least restrictive school environment possible.

10. Incorporates integration with typically developing children: ABA cannot teach child with autism everything they need to learn. Peers can be great models of age appropriate behaviours that a child with autism might not learn in ABA. Interactions with and friendships with typically developing children also provide opportunities to learn and practice social skills as well as have them reinforced.

11. Highly trained staff: ABA is a complicated treatment package and experts have suggested that it takes at least 6 months to begin developing fluency. Inconsistent delivery of ABA programming by even one person can negatively impact a child’s progress. Well trained staff delivering IBI with a high level of treatment integrity have a positive impact on progress ad help lead to accurate clinical decision making.

12. Qualified and experienced supervision: research shows a positive correlation between having an experienced supervisor with an educational background in ABA and a child’s success in ABA. A swell as, the more frequently and in depth that person supervises the ABA instructors and programming, the more progress a child is likely to make.

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