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How to Use Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy

Learn how applied behavior analysis therapy can help a child with autism from pediatrician Asma J. Sadiq, M.D. in this Howcast video.


Applied Behavior Analysis is one of the common behavioral interventions that is recommended for children diagnosed with the autism spectrum. A.B.A. is the common lingo. That's what you are to hear more often, and that's what it stands for. There are versions of A.B.A., and the one developed, or commonly used is called discrete trial. It was developed by, Dr. Lovaas from U.C.L.A. What is interesting is it is based on the theory of rewarding certain behaviors. That is what was done by little trials. You can retrain a child.

For example, if you wanted adequate eye contact, or tapping on the table, and you have the child, you ask them to do so. You re-enforce them every time positively, or when they were able to do so by giving either a raisin, or something they like to eat, or preferably something they like to do because I think food is another issue, but traditionally, they have been food items that have been used to re-enforce behavior. This can be done consistently with supporting them, or giving a no when it's the negative behavior.

One of the modifications that have taken place is that everything gets a positive, and if you're not getting the kind of response you want you use prompting. So, there's success with every attempt. That takes some of the negative out of it. Variations have been done of the A.B.A. There's also now a program called Applied Verbal Analysis where they use a lot more language than just behavior. This is getting more popular because it encourages children to, actually, you see the benefit of language to get their needs met.

A.B.A. as I'm going to use that term is provided by a lot of the programs through early intervention. Also, in special preschools, and can be provided both in school, as well as, at home. Early intervention programs often apply the A.B.A. at home. The study that was done by, Dr. Lovaas was, actually 40 hours of A.B.A. Now, probably that was used for higher functioning kids. There're some mixed responses to his data, but a lot of those kids, actually, got normalized with a lot of their behaviors. That is exciting. A lot A.B.A. programs now are covered between 20 to 30 hours. Parents get the best they can through the school system, or through early intervention, otherwise, go privately, and avail of it.

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