Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is an intensive approach to treating autism with up to 40 hours a week of therapy. This treatment breaks down a desired behavior into small steps and rewards the child for each successful behavior.
There is scientific evidence that ABA is an effective treatment for autism. A study at UCLA of 19 young children with autism reported that after two or more years of intensive early behavioral therapy 47 % of children were “indistinguishable from their normally developing peers” and another 42 % had made significant improvements.
ABA teaches social,motor, and verbal behaviors as well as reasoning skills. The goal of ABA is to determine what happens to trigger a behavior, and what happens after that behavior occurs which seems to reinforce the behavior. The idea is to remove these triggers and reinforcers from the child’s environment. New reinforcers are then used to teach the child a different behavior in response to the same trigger.
Overall, practitioners suggest that intensive ABA is appropriate for children with more profound autism. Unfortunately, no good research exists comparing interventions head to head. This means that parents must make a choice based on finances and availability of therapy, what works best for the family as a whole, and intuition. (Do you like the idea of a very structured, very intense program for your child? Do you think your child will do well in this program?) All children respond differently to many different therapies and it is good to know that there are other options available to parents such as DAN! and others.