Special Learning Articles
Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA therapy is the most popular form of intervention, whether adult or child, diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. It is also the most proven approach in teaching a person basic skills that will otherwise not be picked up on their own. ABA generally involves intensive therapy of 20-40 hours a week and regular observation of the subject by certified behavioral analysts. There are different techniques used in therapy that are patterned after ABA principles.
These techniques are programmable and can be used alone or in combination with a child’s therapy sessions:
Task Analysis - A process in which tasks are broken down into segments so that the parts can be taught in any sequence. Task analysis allows analysts to focus on those portions of a task that require greater emphasis and aids in developing general cognitive skills.
Chaining - Further breaking down tasks that have previously been broken down into segments.
Ex. In eating a candy bar, child is taught first how to remove the wrapper before being taught how to eat the candy.
Prompting - Using the least intrusive encouragement that gets a child to perform a certain task. There are different forms of prompting:
Verbal Cues: Ex. “Dannie, please peel off the candy wrapper.”
Visual Cues: Pointing at the candy bar.
Physical Guidance: Guiding the child’s hand to the candy bar.
Demonstration: Peeling off the first layer of wrapper for the child to imitate.
Fading – The process of subtly reducing prompts over time in order to make the child transition from being prompted to having no need for one. For example, an analyst might start teaching a task by demonstration, then fade to guiding, later to pointing and eventually to a verbal cue.
Shaping – Gradual modification of a person’s existing behavior to a desired one. Ex. Dannie interacts with her dog by pulling its fur. Every time she will exhibits this behavior, her parents intervene by holding her hand and teaching her how to pet the dog instead. This is usually followed by a word of praise. Ex: “Very good, Dannie! You are petting the dog.”
Differential Reinforcement – Providing different responses depending on the difficulty of a given task.
There are two kinds of reinforcement, positive and negative. Positive reinforcement makes use of verbal praises or in the form of tokens or a favorite activity, food or toy. Negative reinforcement might be saying “no” firmly or taking away the favorite toy, food or activity. It is important to give positive reinforcement immediately after the child performs the desired behavior.
Generalization - Teaching a skill in the natural environment after it has been learned in a controlled environment.
Video Modeling – Using a video to demonstrate performance of a desirable task or behavior. This is very effective, especially for children.
These techniques can be learned by anybody that is willing to undergo training. There are also products that can be used in ABA therapy that require minimal training to implement. Special Learning has many examples of products that effective and easy to use. (Behavioural Neurotherapy Clinic, 2009)
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