Girl smiling with her hands under her chin and a book wide open underneath

We know you want the very best for your little one as they grow up. If they have been diagnosed with autism or other disabilities, you might feel a little helpless. However, enrolling them in ABA therapy could get them on the right track to learning and growing happily. If you’re totally unfamiliar, don’t worry. We’ve laid out all things ABA therapy, so you can decide if it’s the best choice for your child and family.

What is ABA Therapy?

Applied Behavioral Analysis, or ABA therapy, is a type of therapy that focuses on improving children’s specific skills. These skills include communication, social, reading, learning, self-care skills, and more. This type of therapy is beneficial for children with developmental delays or disabilities, especially autism. They use many different and unique methods of therapy to aid with the growth. Some of the techniques ABA uses are Pivotal Response Training, Natural Environment Training, and Direct Instruction. It can be conducted in different ways, like the Early Start Denver Model.

Pivotal Response Training

Pivotal Response Training (PRT) is a type of Applied Behavioral Analysis that focuses on comprehensive areas of kids’ development like their motivation to initiate conversation, learn, monitor their own behaviors, etc. Focusing on these areas in Pivotal Response Training can be majorly beneficial for your child since it encourages them to be motivated to positively change their behavior.

Pivotal Response Training allows children to experience therapy the way they want while still benefiting from it. Your kiddo decides what to talk about, what to learn, and what to play. Sometimes therapists might give kids natural reinforcers during Pivotal Response Training to improve their skills. Additionally, the entire family is involved in Pivotal Response Training so that everyone can help your child. Treatment for this specific type of ABA will take place in your child’s natural environment.

Natural Environment Training

Natural Environment Training is a type of treatment often used in ABA therapy to encourage kids to play, communicate, and exist authentically. Some people think that Applied Behavior Analysis is all worksheets and questionnaires, but it’s actually a lot of fun for kids. When kids are in Natural Environment Training, they can connect what they learned in therapy with their real-life environments.

Therapists or parents can incorporate Natural Environment Training into daily life by finding toys and activities that your child finds motivating. Let your child pick out their toys and decide what cartoon to watch or topic to discuss. The most important part of Natural Environment Training is that it’s enjoyable for your child because they learn by playing games and chit-chatting. Incorporating the Natural Environment Training technique with other types of therapy, like Direct Instruction, can have a significant impact on your little one.

Direct Instruction

Direct instruction is a type of teaching that believes that all children can be taught. It supposes that low-performing children just need to be taught in different ways. In Direct Instruction programs, lessons are carefully planned out. The lessons are designed around small learning periods and clearly defined teaching tasks. Direct Instruction emphasizes that clear instruction eliminates misinterpretations, which will improve and accelerate learning. The guiding principles of Direct Instruction are:

  • carefully designed curriculum
  • teaching in small groups
  • scripts
  • fast-paced teaching

Direct Instruction can be applied to different types of ABA therapy to yield maximum results. This form of teaching keeps confusion, misunderstandings, and frustration at bay when learning.

Early Start Denver Model

The Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) is a newer form of ABA that normally begins when a child is between twelve and forty-eight months old. Geraldine Dawson, Ph. D. and Sally Rogers, Ph.D. developed the Early Starr Denver Model of teaching specifically to help children with autism. The Early Start Denver Model is a “play learning” type treatment that allows kids to learn in a fun and exciting environment.

The Early Start Denver Model uses other strategies drawn from ABA, like Natural Environment Training. It encourages parents to interact in the therapy and be involved as much as possible. With the Early Start Denver Model’s emphasis on positive affect and interpersonal dynamics, your child will be able to socialize, learn, and play happily.

Now that you know a little more about ABA therapy, Pivotal Response Training, Natural Environment Training, Direct Instruction, and the Early Start Denver Model, you need to know why these therapies are so effective. Applied Behavioral Analysis could be what your child needs to grow and learn.

The Top Ten Benefits of ABA Therapy are:

  1. It provides individualized assessments of your child.
  2. Lots of evidence backs it.
  3. ABA teaches kids early functional skills.
  4. This type of therapy helps children make friends.
  5. It helps children be more independent.
  6. ABA decreases behavioral problems.
  7. It helps overcome difficult obstacles.
  8. This practice prepares kids for school and “real-world” experiences.
  9. ABA therapy allows your child to be the best version of themselves.
  10. It teaches parents how to help children with disabilities.

1. Individualized Assessments in ABA Therapy

You can judge your child’s growth based on the other kids at their daycare or what the local mom group says on Facebook. However, it’s hard to assess what’s really going on without the help of a professional. Applied Behavioral Analysis allows licensed professionals to evaluate your child individually. Having an individual evaluation will determine the exact issues your child is facing.

The professionals will observe your child in their natural environment, like during play or when they’re socializing. Therapists use Natural Environment Training during ABA therapy, as well as in the early stages of evaluation. Natural Environment Training is beneficial for kids with autism since it gives therapists a true idea of what daily life is like for them. Once they record and observe their data, professionals can determine what help your child needs.

2. Evidence to Support ABA Therapy

ABA therapy is incredible, but don’t just take our word for it. The statistics prove that this type of therapy has helped many kids and families. Studies have shown that with forty hours of ABA therapy over a long period of time, 90% of participants showed significant improvement. Several organizations consider ABA to be effective, including:

  • Autism Speaks
  • American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
  • National Institute of Mental Health
  • Association for Science in Autism Treatment

It’s no shock that Applied Behavior Analysis is so highly praised. It makes up for 45% of therapies that develop long-lasting and observable results. After several years in ABA therapy, most children begin to experience rapid learning and growth.

3. Early Functional Skills

One of the most crucial parts of childhood is learning all the basic skills needed to function throughout life. We don’t think twice before getting dressed, chatting with others, or jotting down notes, but those things are challenging for kids. If your child struggles to master their early functional skills, ABA therapy, Natural Environment Training, Pivotal Response Training, and Direct Instruction could help them out. Early functional skills include things like:

  • -using the bathroom
  • -getting dressed
  • -holding things like pencils and scissors
  • -movement skills
  • -play skills
  • -communication skills

Sometimes, it’s harder for kids with autism to learn the essential skills they need. Pivotal Response Training in ABA will help evaluate your child’s motivations and get them in the right mindset to take care of themselves. Therapists or educators might also use Direct Instruction to give your child clear directions on what to do. Of course, all of your child’s early functional skills learning can be done in the comfort of your home thanks to Natural Environment Training.

4. ABA Therapy and Making Friends

We know that ABA therapy and teaching techniques like Direct Instruction, Pivotal Response Training, Natural Environment Training, and the Early Start Denver Model promote good communication skills in kids. While it can be difficult for kids with autism to make friends, ABA can provide them with the skills they need to get along well with their peers.

ABA therapy also encourages learning and growth in groups, so your little one will have plenty of opportunities to meet other kids. If they’re in groups for Direct Instruction, communicating with other kids could help them understand concepts and ideas better. With a new crew of buddies by their side, your kiddo will be ecstatic!

5. How ABA Therapy Promotes Independence

Applied Behavioral Analysis is wonderful for helping kids make friends, but it can also help them thrive independently. As parents, you’re inclined to want to do everything for your child as long as they’ll let you. However, sometimes it’s best to let them do things on their own. If your little one struggles to be independent, ABA can help them do things by themselves.

Direct Instruction will encourage kids to use their comprehension skills to problem solve on their own. Once they have a better understanding of following instructions, they’ll be able to do it without you having to ask them.

Pivotal Response Training will encourage your child to look inward and become more motivated. Don’t expect your little one to be a motivational speaker after one session, but they will be more eager to do things for themselves.

Being involved in Natural Environment Training will allow your kiddo to transfer what they’ve learned in therapy to the next time they have to do something on their own at home. If you use the Early Start Denver Model with your child, they will become more independent by preparing for school and real-life experiences.

6. Using ABA Therapy to Help with Behavioral Problems

Raising kids comes with its fair share of tantrums and emotional meltdowns, especially if your child struggles with autism. It can be hard for them to express their emotions healthily. You might notice your little one cry, scream, or lash out violently when something doesn’t go their way. ABA therapy can teach them how to deal with those negative feelings rather than throwing a fit or yelling at mom.

When you incorporate Natural Environment Training into your child’s life, it allows professionals to see what behavioral issues they encounter daily. If their therapist recommends a healthy coping method for anger while they’re in play therapy, they’re more likely to remember it the next time they’re playing. Pivotal Response Training will provide a more personalized look at your child’s thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. Since it focuses on your child’s motivation to do things, it can encourage them to be motivated by positive things. The Early Start Denver Model focuses on children’s relationship-based behaviors to teach them to communicate better with others. Direct Instruction will combat your child’s behavioral issues by eliminating any frustration that comes with trying to understand things.

7. Overcoming Obstacles with ABA Therapy

Bad moods, unfortunately, aren’t the only obstacles your child can face when they’re growing up. They may face setbacks that others don’t have to confront, especially if your child has autism. When obstacles get in the way of your little one, Applied Behavioral Analysis can be there to save the day.

One of the biggest ways you can help your child with autism is by encouraging mindfulness. There is a strong link between mindfulness and autism, which can be encouraged through techniques like the Early Start Denver Model, Pivotal Response Training, Direct Instruction, and Natural Environment Training. By attending therapy and being more mindful, your child will feel more capable of dealing with issues that come their way. Since ABA is personal to your child and family, it can help confront specific issues that you are facing.

8. Preparing Children for the Real World

Not to burst your bubble, mom, and dad, but your little one has to grow up eventually. If you enroll your child in ABA therapy at a young age, they will be equipped with many tools to help them function on their own once they’ve grown up. Since they’re treated in Natural Environment Training, their therapy is already setting them up to be prepared for scenarios out in the world.

If your little one is still a baby or toddler, you’re probably not worried about them getting job interviews, moving out, and paying bills on their own. While that level of independence isn’t possible for all people with autism, Applied Behavioral Analysis can increase a kid’s chances of functioning on their own in the future. Even if your child is young, the benefits of ABA and its techniques like the Early Start Denver Model, Pivotal Response Training, and Direct Instruction will last a lifetime. Plus, the longer your child is in therapy, the more prepared they will be for “real life” events.

9. ABA Therapy and Kids’ Happiness

When kids struggle with disabilities like autism, it can be harder for them to be happy and enjoy daily life. Applied Behavior Analysis will allow them to be happier with themselves and the connections in their life. The social skills kids learn in ABA therapy will encourage them to meet new people and broaden their horizons.

As mentioned before, while in Natural Environment Therapy, kids get to choose what they do. They won’t be forced to read boring books or complete a puzzle they don’t care about. Instead, they can choose from a selection of games and toys, and of course, the therapist will interact and play with them. With free reign of their agenda, your little one is bound to be smiling ear to ear.

Direct Instruction will encourage your kiddo to be happier because of how much their skills are improving! It will have them learning lots of new skills and growing at a quick pace. Pivotal Response Training can allow therapists to encourage happiness for your child through positive motivations. For example, if your child makes a meaningful attempt to request a teddy bear, the reward will be a teddy bear. The Early Start Denver Model assists with social development from such a young age that it will have your child interacting with peers and building friendships.

10. Helping Parents of Kids with Autism

Of course, your main priority is to help your child, but you might be thinking, “What about me?” Little ones aren’t the only people who struggle when they’re diagnosed with autism. It’s totally understandable if you read this blog while biting your nails and sitting on the edge of your seat, but you don’t have to worry. One of ABA’s biggest parts is helping kids’ families learn, cope, and assist with their disability. You won’t participate in play therapy during Natural Environment Training, Direct Instruction, Pivotal Response Training, or learning from the Early Start Denver Model like your child. However, one of ABA’s goals is to equip you with all the tools and knowledge you need to assist them.

Applied Behavior Analysis is a family-focused therapy that includes you every step of the way. You will meet with professionals and communicate about a treatment plan for your child after being evaluated. Therapy will only proceed once your family has approved all the treatments your child will be receiving. In addition to including, you in the decision-making process, professionals will help you navigate your little one’s disability. They’ll be there to answer any questions or concerns you might have, as well as teach you the best methods to help and care for your child.

Now that you know all the wonderful benefits of ABA therapy, you can decide if it’s the best fit for your child and family. You can get your child evaluated by professionals to determine where you should start. Whether they need Pivotal Response Training, Direct Instruction, Natural Environment Training, teaching from the Early Start Denver Model, or all of the above, therapists at the ABA therapy facility will make sure your child is getting the best treatment possible.

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