ABA therapy is an empirically based method of teaching skills. Though it has many other functional applications,it's commonly associated with teaching young children with autism. Typically developing children learn through interactive and imitative play. Autistic children often have greater success learning through visual performance and repetition.
The objectives of ABA therapy are as follows: Increasing Desirable
Increasing desirable behaviors: The most common approach used to increase desirable behavior is positive reinforcement. Reinforcement is sometimes confused with bribing. The American Heritage Dictionary defines a bribe as "Something such as money, offered or given to induce or influence a person to act dishonestly." Reinforcemenct is a naturally occurring part of everyone's life. A paycheck is an example of a naturally occurring reinforcement. It's our reward for showing up to work.
Decreasing undesirable behaviors: There are several approaches to decreasing undesirable behaviors. Determining the function of the behavior will determine the type of intervention used. Typical interventions include the following approaches: 1.Proactive programming: Proactive programming is a treatment approach that teaches what to do through positive reinforcement, as opposed to teaching what not to do through punishment. The basic principle supporting this approach is that for every excessive behavior there is a corresponding deficit behavior. Proactive programming teaches appropriate alternative behaviors. Proactive programming can be implemented to increase desired behaviors as well as to decrease unwanted behaviors. 2.Extinction: Extinction is the systematic removal of attending to an undesired behavior. This process is only effective in the treatment of attention seeking behavior. Through withdrawal of the desired consequence, i.e. attention, the behavior no longer serves a function and extinguishes. There is a caveat to keep in mind; upon removal of attention (the reinforcer), the behavior will most likely increase before it decreases. Itís also important to remember that any reaction, even a negative one, constitutes attention and must be withheld in order for extinction to be effective. 3.Differential reinforcement: There are three types of differential reinforcement procedures. They are Differential reinforcement of other behaviors (DRO) Differential reinforcement of incompatible/ alternative behaviors (DRI/DRA) and Differential reinforcement of lower rates of behavior (DRL). These procedures reinforce the reduction or replacement of undesirable behaviors with alternative behaviors that are incompatible with the undesired behaviors.
Skill Acquisition: Teaching skills to autistic children presents several challenges. These include communication, attention, motivation, observation and discrimination deficits. Autistic children often have deficits in both expressive (speech) and receptive (listening) language. ABA therapy addresses these challenges by teaching skills in a manageable format. The term used for this process is called discrete trial teaching. DTT is a specific process with a distinct beginning, middle and end. When done properly, DTT is one of the most effective means of teaching new skills to autistic children, so itís imperative that every therapist be well versed in this technique.