How Does ABA Therapy Work?

Adult demonstrates mouthing words to child to show how aba therapy works

Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA therapy, is an evidence-based approach to autism care with decades of research and positive results. It is one of the most accepted and scientifically-proven therapies for children and teens with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The primary goal of ABA therapy is to improve socially significant skills and behaviors in autism that can hinder their ability to live meaningful and impactful lives. If you’ve ever wondered, “How does ABA therapy work?” you’re not alone. There’s plenty to unravel when highlighting the many benefits ABA therapy has for those on the spectrum, as well as their families or caretakers. 

ABA Centers of Pennsylvania specializes in ABA therapy to give children and teens the tools they need to become independent and content as they progress through life. We understand there may be confusion regarding the specific details of ABA, so we’re here to provide all the information you need to stay informed and up-to-date. Let’s answer, “How does ABA therapy work?” and give further insights to those considering it for their child or loved one. 

How Does ASD Impact an Individual? 

The best way to answer the question, “How does ABA therapy work?” is to understand how ASD impacts individuals on the spectrum. People with autism exhibit a broad range of behaviors that may seem atypical and can be particularly challenging. They often face difficulty with social, cognitive, language, academic, and behavioral skills that can lead to significant developmental delays. 

In some cases, neurodivergent individuals may be nonverbal or use fewer than 1,000 words, compared to the 10,000-20,000 words spoken by most neurotypical people. No matter the severity of autism or the individual’s genetic history, these challenges inhibit their ability to navigate through life as they should be able to. 

Sensory concerns are also prevalent in autism spectrum disorder. These issues present themselves in various ways, primarily in how someone on the spectrum reacts to stimuli such as noises, lights, and textures. Often, these people become overwhelmed or greatly distressed by overstimulation which can lead to meltdowns and other challenging or dangerous behaviors, including elopement or self-harm.  

When these challenges related to autism worsen, they can impact an individual’s ability to go out in public, hold conversations, and carry out other endeavors. These are activities most neurotypical people don’t think twice about doing. Thus, ABA therapy works as an intervention to help individuals develop these necessary skills, reduce challenging behaviors, and learn to manage sensory-related concerns for better quality lives. 

How Does ABA Therapy Work to Develop These Skills? 

As stated before, everyone on the spectrum experiences unique challenges, and rarely are two cases of autism identical in symptoms and severity. Because of this aspect of ASD, ABA therapy requires an approach that caters to each person’s innate skillsets for the best results. The comprehensive and tailored nature of ABA therapy programs allows children and teens to progress at a suitable pace with minimal setbacks at each step. 

ABA therapy prioritizes positive reinforcement and incentives to bring forth positive and healthy behaviors. Most often, ABA programs and sessions include play-based activities to put these reinforcements in place while identifying motivators in the individual. Adding motivators at ideal points helps children learn appropriate actions for differing circumstances.  

Individuals who struggle with daily endeavors such as dressing, eating, hygiene, and other home-life activities also learn to overcome these challenges by engaging in meaningful activities during sessions. Again, how ABA experts teach these skills varies case by case and requires a different approach for each individual. 

Who Conducts ABA Therapy? 

The success of ABA therapy rests upon the shoulders of dedicated and highly trained professionals who profoundly understand ASD and behavior modification principles. At ABA Centers of Pennsylvania, we take immense pride in our team, who conduct ABA therapy with unwavering dedication and compassion. The following ABA specialists typically work with clients:  

  • Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs): A pivotal figure in the world of ABA therapy is the Board Certified Behavior Analyst. BCBAs are extensively trained and possess advanced degrees in behavior analysis or a related field. They play a multifaceted role that involves comprehensive assessment, strategy formulation, and continuous evaluation. BCBAs collaborate closely with families to design personalized treatment plans that cater to each individual’s unique needs and goals. Their expertise empowers them to analyze data, make informed adjustments, and ensure that therapy interventions remain effective and aligned with desired outcomes. 
  • Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs): Under the guidance of BCBAs, Registered Behavior Technicians are the frontline heroes who directly engage with individuals receiving ABA therapy. RBTs are certified professionals who undergo rigorous training and are deeply committed to fostering positive change in the lives of those with ASD. They implement the strategies outlined in behavior plans, document progress, and communicate closely with BCBAs to ensure cohesive therapy sessions. RBTs serve as mentors, guiding individuals through skill-building activities, positive behavior reinforcement, and vital social interactions. 

How Do These Experts Conduct ABA Therapy Sessions? 

ABA therapy follows a structured approach to decode the roots of maladaptive behaviors in individuals with autism. This method delves into the causes of unwanted actions, often arising from overwhelming situations. Key to ABA therapy is understanding the “A-B-Cs”: 

  • Antecedent (A): This is the trigger preceding a behavior. Identifying antecedents unveils insights into why certain behaviors occur. 
  • Behavior (B): By focusing on the behavior, ABA strategies aim to nurture healthier responses, offering growth opportunities. 
  • Consequence (C): After a behavior, the outcome influences future actions. ABA tailors interventions to establish positive cycles. 

Guided by BCBAs, BA empowers individuals to choose constructive approaches. It’s practical, too; simulated scenarios enable safe practice. ABA therapy fosters coping skills and equips individuals to navigate challenges uniquely. It’s a transformative journey shared by therapists, individuals with autism, and families, lighting the path toward positive change. 

How Does ABA Therapy Work in Terms of Location?

Those who utilize ABA therapy can do so from various locations for optimal convenience among parents and caregivers. These include: 

  • Clinic-Based – This most common type of ABA therapy occurs in various clinics designed specifically for these interventions. These locations create a nurturing environment and include toys, games, play places, and a social setting where children can develop their communication skills alongside others. 
  • In-Home – This ABA therapy takes place in the individual’s home. ABA experts travel and conduct sessions in a familiar environment. This therapy works well for those who need additional help learning daily living skills or adhering to routines. It also fosters greater family involvement, which is desirable for many. 
  • In-School – In some cases, BCBAs and RBTs may collaborate with teachers and other educational professionals to administer ABA therapy in a school setting. This approach doesn’t replace schooling; instead, individuals may spend a portion of their day in treatment while continuing their standard education the rest of the time. 

What is Early Intervention in ABA Therapy?

Many ABA experts stress that early intervention is the best way to foster these positive behavior changes. Studies show that early intervention can improve social skills, communication, and cognitive abilities; some show that it can help prevent severe symptoms of ASD entirely. 

Early intervention is effective due to the brain’s plasticity during infancy and early childhood. From 18 months to 4 years, considered the “formative years” for the brain, children can more easily develop skills in the long term. It can increase academic performance, foster better language and motor skills, and in some cases, completely eradicate behaviors related to autism once a child enters adulthood. 

ABA Centers of Pennsylvania knows the benefits of early intervention and regularly promotes the need for an ASD diagnosis as early as possible. Parents and caregivers should look for signs in infancy that warrant autism testing to ensure these behaviors don’t worsen into adulthood. 

Start Your Journey at ABA Centers of Pennsylvania  

If you believe your child or loved one can benefit from ABA therapy, don’t hesitate to contact ABA Centers of Pennsylvania to begin a journey toward growth and independence. We offer clinic-based, in-home, and in-school ABA therapy to give children the best chance to live meaningful lives without setbacks. Our tailored approach teaches parents and caregivers tools and strategies to help outside sessions.

Help is just a call away. Contact us at (844) 444-7496 or visit our website for a free consultation or additional information regarding our ABA therapy programs. 

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