Although a variety of therapy options exist with regard to children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA therapy) is seen as one of the most widely accepted therapies for children with ASD. 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. When applying ABA therapy to children with autism, an intervention takes place 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. Building a skill repertoire for the child is important, as it brings practical change that contributes to the child adapting to society in a neuro-typical manner. Skills include language and communication skills, reasoning skills, attention and memory skills, as well as social and motor skills, while ABA therapy at the same time works to manage challenging behaviour. Most importantly, the goal of ABA therapy is to increase behaviors that are helpful and decrease behaviors that are harmful or affect learning.
It is believed that ABA as intervention therapy is most effective when children with ASD are younger than five. However, older children with ASD will most likely still benefit from ABA as intervention therapy. To get the most benefit from applied behavior analysis, extensive one-on-one therapy for 20 to 40 hours each week is recommended, which unfortunately often is very costly. Furthermore, ABA would be even more beneficial and effective if the parent of the child with ASD get training in ABA themselves. In that way, the child does not only receive the intervention during ABA therapy hours, but on almost every occasion in every instance. Consequently the child is constantly reinforced for positive behaviours, which contributes to the decrease of excesses in the child’s behaviours and the diminishment of the skill deficit.
ABA therapy is adapted to meet the needs of each unique person, which make it such a valuable intervention therapy with regard to children with ASD as each child demonstrate different needs, skills and strengths and therefore require a different approach to intervention. Furthermore, ABA can be applied in many different locations, such as at home, at school, and in the community. Intervention therapy that is applied in so many different locations contributes to a child’s ability to generalize his or her skills over all settings. A potential contributing factor to ABA as most widely accepted intervention therapy for children with ASD, is the fact that ABA therapy is considered an evidence-based best practice treatment, which means that ABA as intervention therapy has passed scientific tests of its usefulness, quality, and effectiveness.