One of the many interventions for autism is ABA – Applied Behaviour Analysis – it can be defined as: “The application of the principles of behaviour to issues that are socially important in order to produce practical change”- it is based on Operant Conditioning Theory. The core principle of ABA is that desirable consequences increase behaviour whereas undesirable consequences will decrease behaviour. This means that positive outcomes to behaviour will promote the continuance of such behaviour and that negative outcomes to behaviour will decrease the likelihood of that behaviour occurring again.
ABA therapy for Autism is an intervention that strives to decrease excesses in the child’s behaviours and diminish the skill deficits that are being caused by these behavioural excesses therefore building up a skill repertoire for the child.
The two main aspects of the ABA program administered at Star Academy based on ABA are: Skill Repertoire Building and Behaviour Management.
Skill repertoire building
The curriculum assessment:
Within this assessment the ABA supervisors create an individualised program based on the skill deficits the child is experiencing. During the assessment, hours required and lessons needed are determined for the child according to individual need.
Exploring different areas of teaching the skill deficits, on a one-on-one basis:
Here the following procedures are used for the teaching purpose:
Discrete trail training: (Developed by Lovaas in the 1960’s.)
This strategy includes:
- Intensive instruction (40 hours a week)
- Table teaching
- Teaching one target skill at a time
- Making sure the child succeeds at least 30 % of the time.
Natural environment training
Brought in by Koegel, O’Dell and Koegel in 1987.They had said that the teaching should take place in the child’s natural environment. In this method of teaching the instructors pair themselves with a reinforcer. The task being taught should be 80% easy so the child will not want to leave the task at hand. The instructor will then integrate the child’s targets around this reinforcing task. This form of teaching can be applied to all areas of the child’s life including home and community outings. It also helps for the child’s targets to be generalized across people and environments.
Fluency based instruction
In 1990, O.R.Lindsley said fluency based instruction teaches the child to respond accurately and rapidly which will result in better retention and generalization. The program takes composite skills and breaks them into components. The program then teaches these components by providing reinforcement for rapid and accurate responding.
Prompting and fading
New target skills that are found to be difficult for the child are prompted- “An additional stimulus presented to give the child a hint so as to gain the correct answer”. As the skill is mastered so the prompting will be faded out so as the child responds with a correct answer independently.
This procedure teaches the child to distinguish between 2 or more targeted skills.
This procedure is used in both Language and Oral motor skills reinforcing successive approximations whilst extinguishing previous approximation.
This procedure teaches the child to engage in complex behaviours composed of a chain of behaviours. In the program complex tasks are broken down into a sequence of smaller components. Each component is taught separately, ending in the child being able to handle the complex task as a whole.
Behaviour is anything we do whether it is bad, good or neutral. Everything people do is to get good stuff or to avoid bad stuff. Challenging behaviour which is defined as anything that can hurt someone or be maladaptive, is the child’s way of communicating to you what he or she wants. This is not the appropriate way of communicating but he or she may be lacking the skills to tell you in an appropriate way.
ABA studies look at the specific behaviour, what happened before it and what happened after it. This is known as the behavioural contingency. If we can change the behavioural contingency, we can change the behaviour.
The Behavioural Contingency
A= Antecedent= “What were the conditions before the behaviour occurred”
B= Behaviour = “A response or outcome to the antecedent”
C= Consequence= “Can be positive or negative depending on the above behaviour”
If we change the Antecedent we can change the behaviour!!!!!
ABA principles are used to manipulate behaviour; by giving reinforcement for good behaviour and removing reinforcements when bad behaviour occurs.
Understanding the function of the child’s behaviour is important in determining how the antecedent and/ or the consequence need to be adapted.
“What is my child trying to communicate to me?”
“Is he or she tantruming because they want a toy?”,” Screaming because he or she wants to avoid getting in the bath?”, “Hitting you because he or she wants your attention?”. Asking these questions will help you determine the function of your child’s behaviour at any given time.
Knowing why your child is behaving in a certain way gives you the power to change the behaviour.
ABA uses the following procedures to change challenging behaviours:
This involves preventing access to good stuff when problem behaviour occurs.
Extinction can be used for the following functions of behaviour:
- Attention– Here you will ignore the problem behaviour. This means don’t provide eye contact or interact vocally with your child, don’t re-direct the behaviour if it involves giving attention and lastly don’t discuss the child’s behaviour in front of them.
- Tangibles– In this regard you will not provide access to the tangible item or activity that the child is trying to get while the problem behaviour occurs.
- Escape– If the behaviour is to get out of a task you should continue to give the instruction while ignoring the problem behaviour. This allows the child to see that they can’t get out of the original task or demand.
Reinforce desired behaviour and extinguish undesired behaviour.
- Differential reinforcement of other behaviour– This procedure will be used to reinforce the child when he or she is not engaging in the usual problem behaviour.
- Differential reinforcement of alternative behaviour– This procedure is used to reinforce the child for engaging in a more appropriate behaviour.
- Differential reinforcement of incompatible behaviour– This procedure is used to reinforce the child for engaging in replacement behaviours that are incompatible with the problem behaviour.
ABA helps parents to teach their children great life skills that many autistic children are lacking but also makes it easy for the child to want to partake in good behaviour as the rewards are beneficial to them.
“Children with autism do recover”