Applied Behavioral Analysis for Aspergers Kids

"As I am researching Autism Spectrum Disorders, I hear a lot about ABA therapy for children with Aspergers. What is ABA exactly, and is it something I should look into for my Aspie."

It is often difficult to understand why a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism behaves the way he does. However, there is a reason for his behavior, and applied behavior analysis helps us understand the behavior and determine a method of support for the child so that he no longer needs the behavior to meet his needs.

Using Applied Behavior Analysis, you can determine the antecedents to behavior, identify the behavior, and identify the consequence for the behavior, or what is currently maintaining the behavior. Using this process, you can determine alternative behaviors that are more appropriate, yet will meet your child's needs, without displaying the inappropriate behavior. This aids parents in understanding their child better and helps outline a method to change his behavior.

ABA treatment can include any of several established teaching tools:

1.    discrete trial training
2.    fluency building
3.    incidental teaching
4.    pivotal response training
5.    verbal behavior

In discrete trial training, an ABA therapist gives a clear instruction about a desired behavior (e.g., “Pick up the green toy.”). If the youngster responds correctly, then the behavior is reinforced (e.g., “Good job! Have a sticker.”). If the youngster doesn’t respond correctly, the therapist gives a gentle prompt (e.g., places the youngster’s hand over the green toy). The hope is that the youngster will eventually learn to generalize the correct response.

In fluency building, the therapist helps the youngster build up a complex behavior by teaching each element of that behavior until it is automatic or "fluent," using the ABA approach of behavioral observation, reinforcement, and prompting. Then, the more complex behavior can be built from each of these fluent elements.

Incidental teaching uses the same ideas as discrete trial training, except the goal is to teach behaviors and concepts throughout a youngster’s day-to-day experience, rather than focusing on a specific behavior.

Pivotal response training uses ABA techniques to target crucial skills that are important for many other skills. Thus, if the youngster improves on one of these pivotal skills, improvements are seen in a wide variety of behaviors that were not specifically trained. The idea is that this approach can help the youngster generalize behaviors from a therapeutic setting to everyday settings.

Lastly, an ABA-related approach for teaching language and communication is called verbal behavior or VB for short. In VB, the therapist analyzes the youngster’s language skills, then teaches and reinforces more useful and complex language skills.

Social and behavioral skills can be taught, even to profoundly autistic kids, through the ABA method. Many - if not most – young people who receive ABA training learn to behave appropriately at least some of the time, and some even lose their Aspergers diagnosis after a few years of intensive therapy.


Anonymous said...

There are so many social issues with AS kids.

Some kids with AS have high levels of social anxiety. So the
first and foremost the issue is to keep the
child in social situations at some level. They need to
be encouraged to stay in social situations.

Some AS kids are so obsessive that socializing is difficult
to sustain for any length of time, so having therapist
faciliated conversation skills with another student on a
broad range of topics is really so helpful.
They need short structured opportunities often. And then
time to themselves to retreat.

From that the therapist and parent can determine what is
the difficulties. AS kids often don't need a script to talk,
but they do need to script and practice keeping a conversation
flowing and not becoming a lecture.

Another area of socializing that is difficult for AS
kids is having a social perspective. They don't gossip
about each other the way other kids do to learn about
each other. So Mom has to step in and talk about the other
kids personalities and how to cope with them. Typical
kids see social situations and remember what works
and what doesn't. AS kids need this explained very
concretely. Kids have to learn though how to deal with
difficult social situations and not avoid them. It is part
of work life and school life. This just is not taught
in a social skills class or ABA. But to be mainstreamed
you have to have some of this or be isolated or dependent
on Mom pairing you up.

For me and my daughter, ABA is used for her behavior issues
where it is predictable from day to day what is wanted.
And for predictable social situations.

We had to look privately for 1:1 conversation skill therapy
the school didn't understand what was needed. They don't
get it at all. We even had a behaviorist write a plan
for the school to have contrived social situations. And
to have 1:1 social pairing with two peers. Our school
is resistent to do this though.

Anonymous said...

Please tell me about your experiences with ABA therapy.

Anonymous said...

Love it!! The school won't pay for it nor will insurance, but it's been worth the expense as we've seen so much progress. Our therapist is not actually certified so we pay less (her experience was in a group home teaching the youth social skills they need to be successful). She comes to the house to work with our 11 year old and he is learning the skills he needs to not only cope in the world but enjoy it and be successful! If you happen to live near a university that has an ABA program, you could find students who might be interested in working with your child. Just be sure they're the right fit.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! How many hours a week do you have your child participate in aba?

Unknown said...

We have had 5 years experience with multiple ABA for our 2 Aspies. It has done more harm than good. The system is based on extrinsic factors. These kids, like most people, benefit from extrinsic factors. ABA can cause PTSD and increase anxiety that take years to rectify. I would research other methods and read about HFA "graduates" of ABA.

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