Adora Bright offers a wide range of individual and group services based on the principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) to help children achieve better outcomes.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) methodology involves the application of basic behavioral practices (positive reinforcement, repetition, and prompting) to facilitate the development of language, positive skills, and social behavior as well as to help reduce everyday social problems and serious behavior disorders.
Data collected through hundreds of studies currently indicate that ABA is a highly effective method to teach children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other developmental disabilities.
Tested by research and experience for more than 35 years, ABA practices have been endorsed by the Surgeon General, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Association for Science in Autism Research. The skills and experience of an ABA professional are essential for successful treatment. Continuous and systematic evaluation of effectiveness is a fundamental component of the ABA methodology.
ABA can be used to teach a variety of skills and positive behaviors, including language, reading, social skills, positive peer support, academic engagement, functional living skills, and more. ABA methodology is also effective in decreasing inappropriate behaviors such as noncompliance, tantrums, bed-wetting, feeding problems, aggression, and self-injury.
ABA techniques work across all environments: work, home, school, and the community. Examples of therapy goals for each of these settings could include:
- Home – Toilet training, Sibling interaction/Social interaction, Communication or Language Training, Chores or Task Completion, Homework Completion
- School – Increasing group participation, Reduction of problem behaviors, Functional Behavior Assessments, Reducing off-task instructional behavior
- Community – Generalization of skills across settings, Extinguishing wandering or elopement behaviors, Teaching street safety, Stranger Danger
- Work – Increasing performance output, Improving upon social interactions amongst colleagues or employers, Reducing off -task behavior, Increasing task fluency (speed at which a skill is performed)
Ideally, all relevant caregivers or professionals (Teachers, Speech Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Nannies, etc.) should work collaboratively as a team to generalize and implement the treatment plan developed by the ABA professionals. Teamwork can make all the difference in helping children reach their potential.
Effective ABA intervention for autism is not a “one size fits all” approach and should never be viewed as a “canned” set of programs or drills. On the contrary, a skilled therapist customizes the intervention to each learner’s skills, needs, interests, preferences and family situation. For these reasons, an ABA program for one learner will look different than a program for another learner. That said, quality ABA programs for learners with autism have the following in common:
Planning and Ongoing Assessment
- A qualified and trained behavior analyst designs and directly oversees the intervention.
- The analyst’s development of treatment goals stems from a detailed assessment of each learner’s skills and preferences and may also include family goals.
- Treatment goals and instruction are developmentally appropriate and target a broad range of skill areas such as communication, sociability, self-care, play and leisure, motor development and academic skills.
- Goals emphasize skills that will enable learners to become independent and successful in both the short and long terms.
- The instruction plan breaks down desired skills into manageable steps to be taught from the simplest (e.g., imitating single sounds) to the more complex (e.g. carrying on a conversation).
- The intervention involves ongoing objective measurement of the learner’s progress.
- The behavior analyst frequently reviews information on the learner’s progress and uses this to adjust procedures and goals as needed.
ABA Techniques and Philosophy
- The instructor uses a variety of behavior analytic procedures, some of which are directed by the instructor and others initiated by the learner.
- The learner’s day is structured to provide many opportunities – both planned and naturally occurring – to acquire and practice skills in both structured and unstructured situations.
- The learner receives an abundance of positive reinforcement for demonstrating useful skills and socially appropriate behaviors. The emphasis is on positive social interactions and enjoyable learning.
- The learner receives no reinforcement for behaviors that pose a harm or impede learning
Ingredients of Successful Programs
Early intensive ABA can be delivered in various settings (e.g., centre-based, home-based) by various interventionists (e.g., therapists, educators, parents) and in various forms, but in all variations there are certain ingredients associated with successful outcomes. Many of these are listed below.
- Begin early (before 4 years)
- Intensive (20-40 hrs a week for at least 2 years)
- Use systematic behavioural teaching methods to build and generalize skills
- Makes programming changes based on direct measurement of child learning
- Use a functional approach to problem behaviours
- Curriculum is comprehensive in scope and developmental in sequence
- Schedule is individualized (goals, reinforcers used, teaching methods)
- Delivered by highly trained, well supervised staff
- Takes place in variety of settings (home, school, community)
- Involves parents in planning and treatment
- Involves integration with typically developing children
- Involves gradual and systematic transition from one-to-one instruction to typical classroom instruction.
(based on Anderson & Romanczyk, 1999; Green 1996b; Powers, 1992)
How to evaluate claims of treatment effectiveness?
One wants to avoid two types of errors in deciding about treatment adoption: (1) rejecting a treatment that in fact is effective; and, (2) accepting a treatment that has no effect or is harmful. Each of these two types of error has associated costs.
This question about how to evaluate claims of treatment effectiveness was addressed in a thoughtful chapter by Dr. Gina Green (1996a). Dr. Green presented the difference between science, pseudo-science, and anti-science, suggesting that claims about treatment effectiveness should be based on careful and critical consideration of their scientific merits through examination of the objective evidence about the treatment- that is, evidence from well-designed scientific studies, rather than anecdotes, testimonies nor speculations.
If we use these criteria for evaluating interventions based on their objective evidence, we can categorize treatment according to their associated evidence of treatment effectiveness.
- Category 1:
Interventions that have been demonstrated to be effective and not harmful in controlled studies using objective, independently verified measures of the intervention effects.
- Category 2:
Interventions that have been demonstrated not to be effective or to be harmful in controlled studies.
- Category 3:
Interventions for which there is not adequate scientific evidence on which to base any conclusions.
Decisions concerning adopting interventions in Categories 1 and 2 are clear. Under most circumstances, responsible professionals and parents would pursue treatments in Category 1 and not treatments in Ctegory2. It is less clear how to deal with treatments in Category 3, where there has been inadequate research. A conservative stance would be not to use any interventions that have not been clearly demonstrated to be effective.
Although this stance would result in rejecting treatments that may not be effective, it could also result in rejecting treatments that might ultimately prove to be effective. It is our belief that treatments with inadequate research should be treated as experimental procedures and used in conjunction with Category 1 treatment only if : a) there are no known harmful effects; b) they do not interfere with the use of demonstrated effective treatments; c) their effectiveness is plausible; d) with written informed consent; and e) careful measurement of their effectiveness.
Baer, D., Wolf, M., & Risley, R. (1968). Some current dimensions of applied behavior analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1, 91 – 97.
Baer, D., Wolf, M., & Risley, R. (1987). Some still-current dimensions of applied behavior analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 20, 313 – 327.
Maine Administrators of Services for Children with Disabilities (MADSEC) (2000). Report of the MADSEC Autism Task Force.
Myers, S. M., & Plauché Johnson, C. (2007). Management of children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics, 120, 1162-1182.
National Academy of Sciences (2001). Educating Children with Autism. Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education.
Sulzer-Azaroff, B. & Mayer, R. (1991). Behavior analysis for lasting change. Fort Worth, TX : Holt, Reinhart & Winston, Inc.