Statement about Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy (ABA)
ABA therapy is an evidence-based and beneficial therapy that teaches skills such as communication, adaptive and functional living skills, and self-advocacy, which in turn, improves abilities that lead to greater autonomy and independence. We do not condone any therapy, treatment, or process that focuses on “curing” autism, and therapy should always be for the good of the individual receiving therapy.
Response to ABA Concerns:
Whether ABA is helpful or harmful has become a highly contentious topic. We have provided some guidelines below to ensure ABA is person-centered and the intent is to improve functional skills and abilities. At the Autism Society of Texas we follow the Options Policy written by the Autism Society of America. You can read the policy here:
We do not condone forced eye contact, or any treatments which would disallow stimming or in any way force someone to mask or not be their true autistic selves.
Indicators of a Quality ABA Program
The program is developed and supervised by a certified and credentialed individual:
– BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst)
– RBT (Registered Behavior Technician)
– Includes a broader, collaborative treatment team for clinical oversight that includes other licensed individuals such as psychologists, speech therapists, and occupational therapists.
Programs are individualized for the learner based on the assessment:
– Consideration of the individual needs of the learner and the family should be taken into account when determining where the ABA program will primarily take place: in-home or center-based, or combination. There is evidence to support significant progress in both home and clinic settings based on individual needs.
– The child’s natural inclinations and interests are incorporated.
– Cookie-cutter programs offering the same goals to each learner are a red flag.
– Teaching only skills that are missed on an assessment are a red flag.
The goals are meaningful, functional, and build important skills for adulthood:
– Goals not only build on challenging areas, but strengths as well.
– An important question to ask is: If my child can’t do this skill when they are an adult, will someone else have to do it for them?
– Goals are set not in terms of normalization, but to improve communication and the child’s ability to function and interact with their environment.
Data is collected regularly and used to make decisions about programs:
– Data is shared regularly with parent and treatment team.
The program is positive (not aversive or punishing):
– Many opportunities for positive reinforcement in a naturalistic setting.
– The reinforcement is natural and preferred by the child.
– Physical prompting is only utilized when necessary with a willing learner (i.e., with consent) and is quickly faded.
– Instructional control is earned through rapport building and establishing consistent reinforcement contingencies.
Challenging behaviors are addressed and reduced:
– A behavior plan is created following a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA).
– The function/s of the behavior is identified, and the treatment plan reflects skills that need to be acquired as replacement behaviors.
– The fidelity of the implementation of the behavior plan is measured across the treatment team and caregivers.
– Data is collected and analyzed on a regular basis to determine effectiveness of plan.
Parental involvement is regular and mandatory:
– Research shows that outcomes are better for children whose parents participate in their intervention program.
Indicators of Quality Goals
The most important element of an intervention program is that it is personalized according to the needs of the individual. These needs are informed by observation, assessments, interviews with parents, and an FBA to assess the function of any challenging behavior. The program should take place in the natural environment (as much as possible), be delivered by trained professionals, and involve the child and family in determining what is important to them.
Goals should include:
– Teaching new functional skills, including communication, social skills, and self-care.
– Increasing selected functional behavior.
– Maintaining selected behavior.
– Reducing interfering or challenging behavior.
– Teaching functional replacement behavior.
– Generalizing behavior (embedded into programming).
– Increasing parental skills and incorporating parental participation into all aspects of the program.
– Collecting data regularly (e.g., daily) to track progress and inform modifications and progression of goals. Re-assessment of skills using the same standard measures should be occurring at regular intervals to assess progress.
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