Autism Therapy and The Amazing Results of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis)

Many individuals, especially during early intervention years (ages 2-6) participate in ABA for upwards of 30-40 hours a week- equivalent to many adult full time jobs. But, intensive intervention can yield amazing results.

Shock. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Guilt. Depression. Acceptance and Hope. These seven stages are often thought of as the stages of grief that a person goes through when a loved one passes away. However, for many parents this process is all too familiar when their child is diagnosed with Autism. One parent even described the diagnosis of her son as, “not just grieving… but mourning… mourning the child I thought I would have and life that I thought he would have”.

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological disorder characterized by restrictive and repetitive behaviors and deficits in the areas of social interaction and verbal and non-verbal communication. The Center for Disease Control reports that 1 in 68 children have been diagnosed with Autism. It is noted to be a spectrum disorder because it presents with varying levels of severity. It is hard to wrap your mind around the idea that the same disorder that effects high functioning savants such as the leading character in the movie Rainmain also effects the non-verbal child jumping, flapping his hands, and banging his head on the floor at the grocery store. Just as those individuals are effected by the same disorder, they can also benefit from the same treatment—Applied Behavior Analysis.

Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA is a science that analyzes the effects that variables in the environment have on behavior and then manipulates those variables to produce a meaningful change in behavior. Behavior, typically thought of as conduct, in ABA simply means anything an individual says or does. For example, having a conversation with your neighbor is behavior, tapping your foot to a song is behavior, taking a sip of water is behavior, and yelling “go George!” to your son at his soccer game is behavior. Professionals, called behavior analysts, look at these behaviors, then analyze and find the function of behavior, the why, and then manipulate the environment to change behavior. In a nutshell, behavior analysts seek to increase, by positively reinforcing, socially appropriate behavior and reduce or extinguish maladaptive or inappropriate behaviors.

Behaviors that have a good or rewarding result are more likely to occur in the future. For example, you work hard on a project at work– your boss gives you a raise – you are more likely to continue to work hard on projects in the future. But how does that help individuals with Autism? ABA, when used as an intervention for individuals with Autism, seeks to find what motivates that individual. In the example above, that motivation was money in the form of a raise. Behavior analysts then harness that found motivation, break skills down in to smaller steps, and use that motivator to increase and teach desired behavior such as language, communication, and social skills and to decrease maladaptive behaviors such as aggression, self-injury, and repetitive or obsessive behaviors.

ABA is researched based and empirically validated to be the most effective treatment for individuals diagnosed with Autism. In fact, studies have shown that numerous individuals with Autism participating in intensive ABA interventions have scored higher on IQ tests and display rapid learning. Many individuals are able to participate in regular education classrooms and have even tested within normal ranges on academic, adaptive, and/or social skills assessments. Intensive treatment is just that- intensive. Many individuals, especially during early intervention years (ages 2-6) participate in ABA for upwards of 30-40 hours a week- equivalent to many adult full time jobs. But, intensive intervention can yield amazing results.
Not only is ABA effective, for many families effected by Autism, it is life changing. The son of the parent who was quoted at the beginning of this article participates in an ABA program. When she was asked how ABA has helped her family, she states: “We used to not go out in public, it was just too difficult. But, since starting ABA our family has become whole again. We can participate in community events, go on vacations, and my son is even playing baseball this spring, which is something I never thought would be possible. ABA gave me back my hopes and dreams and it gave my family back our life.”

Personalized Therapy, LLC’s Autism and Behavior Treatment Center located in St. Mary’s and Calvert counties, provides research based interventions based upon the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to children with Autism and other related disorders.  The A&B Treatment Center provides comprehensive therapy by certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA/BCaBA), Registered Behavior Technician (RBT’s), Reading Specialists, licensed Psychologists, Occupational, Physical, and Speech Therapists. For more information visit personalizedtherapyllc.com

JENNIFER TENNYSON
Originally from the Southern Maryland area, Jennifer joined Personalized Therapy, LLC in 2012 as a founding member of the Behavioral Health Center. She is a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) and she graduated from Ball State University with a Master of Arts degree in Applied Behavior Analysis and a graduate certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Additionally, she holds her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies from Clemson University. She has been working in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis since 2008 and has experience in both private and public sectors providing services based on the principles of ABA to children ages 1-21 with a variety of disabilities. Jennifer is trained in both Lovaas and Mixed Verbal Behavior methodologies. She has expertise in Autism Spectrum Disorders as well as in the area of toilet training. She also takes special interest in parent training, teaching executive functioning, and social skills. In her free time, she enjoys decorating her house, spending time with her husband and two young sons, fundraising for Autism Awareness and her children’s school, and cheering on her Alma Mater, the Clemson Tigers.