Effective ABA intervention for ASD is not a “one size fits all” approach and should never be viewed as a “canned” set of programs or drills. On the contrary, a skilled therapist customizes the intervention to each child’s skills, needs, interests, preferences and family situation. For these reasons, an ABA program for one child will look different than a program for another. That said, quality ABA programs for individual’s with ASD have the following in common:
Planning and Ongoing Assessment
- A qualified behaviour analyst designs and directly oversees the intervention.
- The analyst’s development of treatment goals stems from a detailed assessment of each individual’s skills and preferences and may also include family goals.
- Treatment goals and instruction are developmentally appropriate and target a broad range of skill areas such as communication, sociability, self-care, play and leisure, motor development and academic skills.
- Goals emphasize skills that will enable the child to become independent and successful in both the short and long terms.
- The instruction plan breaks down desired skills into manageable steps to be imparted from the simplest (e.g. imitating single sounds) to the more complex (e.g. carrying on a conversation).
- The intervention involves ongoing objective measurement of the child’s progress.
- The behaviour analyst frequently reviews information on the child’s progress and uses this to adjust procedures and goals as needed.
- The analyst meets regularly with family members and program staff to plan ahead, review progress and make adjustments as needed.
ABA Techniques and Philosophy
- The instructor uses a variety of behaviour analytic procedures, some of which are directed by the instructor and others initiated by the child.
- Parents and/or other family members and caregivers receive counselling so they can support acquiring and practicing the skills throughout the day.
- The child’s day is structured to provide many opportunities – both planned and naturally occurring – to acquire and practice skills in both structured and unstructured situations.
- The child receives an abundance of positive reinforcement for demonstrating useful skills and socially appropriate behaviours. The emphasis is on positive social interactions and enjoyable learning.
- The child receives no reinforcement for behaviours that pose harm or prevent skill acquisition.
What Kind of Progress Can Be Expected with ABA?
Competently delivered ABA intervention can help children with ASD make meaningful changes in many areas. However, changes do not typically occur quickly. Rather, most kids require intensive and ongoing instruction that builds on their step-by-step progress. Moreover, the rate of progress – like the goals of intervention – varies considerably from person to person depending on age, level of functioning, family goals and other factors.
Some children do acquire skills quickly. But typically, this rapid progress happens in just one or two particular skill areas, while much more instruction and practice is needed to master another skill area such as interacting with peers.