What is ABA? Part 1

I am currently going through training to become an ABA therapist with CARD. It is amazing experience because I love kids and am fascinated by how the strategies of ABA work so well. Seeing these kids improve in a variety of skills, seeing them interact with their family more easily, and seeing them grow is what it is all about. My interest in research has not faded though, and while I have been learning about how to implement ABA strategies, knowing why they are effective and to what degree is equally as interesting. In an article by Laurie Vismara and Sally Rogers from the M.I.N.D. Institute at Davis, they explain why ABA therapy is so effective and discuss the different types of behavior based models (Vismara & Rogers, 2010).

ABA was first being used in the 1960s and since then it has grown, improved, and developed into what we see it being used as today. Within ABA there are many different applications and types of intervention programs used. There are the comprehensive programs such as Discrete Trial Training (DTT) and Incidental Teaching that focus on many skills at once and then there are Skills Based Models, such as the Picture Exchange Communication System, that focus on teaching one skill. All of these different models use the same scientifically based principles of behavior using reinforcement. To apply these principles of behavior on the individual level, an assessment is conducted to figure out what in the environment is causing these behaviors to occur. The change in environment—how people interact with the individual and in opportunities given to the individual, helps to reshape the reinforcement of behaviors.

In the few weeks of training I’ve been through, I have met some amazing therapists and met the kids whose lives they’ve changed. What is really inspirational, however, are the families that have made the necessary lifestyle changes which help make the most of the therapy and bring about real improvement in their child’s life. These parents take on so much and it is so beautiful to see them adopt the ABA principles themselves so that the child’s environment and interactions can lead them to recovery.

I am interested in comparative research on the pros and cons of each method and how each affects different individuals. In future blogs, I will cover in detail the various ABA models discussed in the Vismara and Rogers article and how I see them being used from the perspective of a new therapist.

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