Frequently Asked Questions
What is ABA and how does it work?
Applied Behavior Analysis is a medical intervention that works exceptionally well for all developmental disabilities. It uses the scientific principles of learning and motivation to teach skills and reduce problem behaviors. ABA is considered an “evidence-based best practice treatment” by the US Surgeon General, American Psychological Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and National Academy of Sciences.
How much therapy should my child get?
Our best research tells us the following two facts: intensity matters – at least 30 hours per week of one to one intervention produces the best outcomes (Linstead et al., 2017; Granpeesheh et al. 2009; Eldevik et al., 2010; Virues-Ortega 2010) duration matters – two or more years of intervention produce the best outcomes (Reichow & Wolery, 2009; Smith et al., 1997; Linstead et al., 2017)
Why does ABA require so many hours per week?
It may sound like a lot at first, but to your child, its not a lot of work. Good ABA therapy should be fun for the kid and it should be part of his natural routine. A good ABA therapy program will fit neatly into your family’s natural routine rather than asking you to adjust your routine to fit the therapy. We can go with you to the grocery store, the park, boy/girl scouts, etc. Wherever your family happens to be going, we will be there.
Shouldn't my child have down time or "time to be a kid?"
Absolutely! Any good ABA therapy program should include a good mix of breaks and “work.” Keep in mind that whatever you practice is what you get good at. The problem for children with developmental disabilities is that they often spend a lot of time “practicing” skills that don’t help them. Playing in isolation, playing with object in odd ways, etc. doesn’t lead to friendships or a help them grow into a full life. A good ABA therapy program will teach kids to have fun in a variety of ways all while giving them skills to live their best life.
What does an ABA session look like?
An ABA session is usually a high-energy, fun interaction between the child and their therapist. It should include lots of positive reinforcement, praise, and enjoyable activities for the child. The therapist will use things that motivate the child (for example tickling or playing tag) to evoke desirable behaviors or new skills and will help the child achieve success through prompting. Often there will be a mix of tasks in order to assure that there’s focus and mastery vs. rote repetition or boredom. Lastly, we always spend time building a relationship with the child so they are more motivated to work and learn. A child who doesn’t like their therapist is less likely to learn from them.
Can ABA get my kid to talk (or talk more)?
ABA emphasizes language development, specifically receptive and expressive language. Research has continually supported the efficacy of ABA in developing oral language skills. We have tons of tools and techniques for teaching kids to talk or talk more. However, like with all medical therapies, we can’t make any guarantees. Still, for those few children who won’t learn to talk, ABA can give them the tools to communicate their needs and wants effectively.
I heard ABA can make kids talk/act like robots. Is that true?
If you have a team of people who are highly trained, who understand kids and ABA, and get regular supervision from a BCBA, then no. The “robotic” behavior some families see happens when kids learn to perform a skill in a very rigid way, in a very rigid setting. At SOAR, we emphasize natural learning and incorporate methods for getting kids to talk/act in a variety of settings with a variety of different responses.
Does ABA use punishment?
Not in the way you’re thinking. Punishment, as most people understand it, is something emotionally or physically painful like spanking, yelling, or otherwise hurting a child. At SOAR, we have zero tolerance for this. Our version of “punishment” might include losing a point, losing a privilege temporarily, dong some extra work, or something similarly mild. And we would only use it if a kid is refusing to do something they already know how to do. Furthermore, we would only use this when we’ve exhausted all of our other options (and we have a lot of other options). At SOAR, punishment is a last resort, and we never use it without first getting a caregivers permission.
Why does ABA use reinforcers? What about intrinsic motivation?
Yes, we should work toward intrinsic motivation. But intrinsic motivation begins with extrinsic motivation. Take for example a child who doesn’t want to complete their homework. Sure, completing your homework will get you better grades, teacher recognition, and you’ll feel good about yourself. But that reward is far off, and the boring homework needs to be done right now. In these cases, reinforcement is useful for getting an immediate reward for good behavior. Then, once we have enough incidents of good behavior (e.g. doing your homework every night), we’re able to contact those longer term reinforcers like teacher praise, good grades, or feeling good about yourself. That’s when intrinsic motivation starts. Reinforcers are just the tool to get you there.
Is ABA only for Autism?
Definitely not. ABA is a general mental health treatment, meaning that it’s been proven to be effective for a variety of disabilities, not just autism. Historically, the largest population receiving ABA therapy has been individuals with autism. But (depending on your insurance) we can work with a variety of disabilities. Give us a call to find out if we can help you!
Is ABA good for older children or teens?
Absolutely! ABA is nothing more that the implementation of the scientific principles of learning and motivation to teach skills and reduce problem behaviors. It works just as well with older children and teens as it does with young children.
How involved can I be in my child's treatment?
You can be as involved as you want. We love parent involvement! Our goal is always to transfer our skills over to you so that we can go on to other kids who needs us. So the more questions you ask, the better! We will also include parent training as part of your child’s treatment.