Approaches to Cleveland ABA therapy for children with autism can be varied depending on the provider. If your child is on the spectrum and you’ve been referred to behavior therapy by your pediatric specialist, it’s important to talk to the behavior therapy provider not only about the goals they have for your child, but the strategies they employ.
At Therapy & Wellness Connection, our strategies may need to be adapted for each child, but they primarily involve positive reinforcement.
The basics of ABA usually involve things like:
- Learning to make requests
- Waiting a reasonable amount of time to have that request fulfilled
- Transitioning from one activity to another
- Completing tasks
- Accepting “No”
- Following directions
- Mastering skills relating to health, safety, and important tasks needed for learning
Typically, we start with a functional behavior assessment, which helps us determine which behaviors we want to target for extinction, and which we want to promote/encourage.
Wherever possible, our Cleveland ABA therapy team will work to ensure that the “why” of what we’re learning makes sense to the child. So if the goal is for them to be able to put on their own jacket, we avoid initiating that task randomly. We do it, for example, to prepare to go for a walk or some other task.
We offer our services both in-home and in-clinic. In both cases, we try to use as many real-world examples as possible. So for example, if we’re trying to teach a child how to get ready to eat lunch, we want to give them opportunities to do things like choose their spoon from a kitchen drawer, as opposed to pointing to a flashcard of a spoon.
Understanding Antecedent-Based Interventions
One technique we frequently employ in our Cleveland ABA therapy sessions involve antecedent-based interventions.
To explain how this works, it’s helpful to understand how ABA therapy views learning. That is, we focus on a three-stage process referred to as the ABCs of behavior (Antecedent –> Behavior –> Consequence). The antecedent looks at what happens immediately before the behavior, what triggers it. Then we analyze the behavior itself. From there we look at the consequence, or what happens immediately after that may be enforcing it (intentionally or unintentionally).
For example, let’s say your child has major meltdowns while you’re making dinner. The antecedent may be their own hunger. The behavior is their meltdown. This may be unintentionally reinforced by a consequence of giving them a high-sugar snack, right before dinner.
As ABA therapists, we look at whether the behavior can be modified by altering the antecedent or consequence. We may modify the environment to reduce triggers. We may identify when bodily needs are triggering the behavior (hunger, fatigue, overstimulation) and work to address those. For example, a child who is overstimulated may need a movement break/exercise/quiet time at certain times of the day or when certain things are happening – to be able to better cope and avoid meltdowns.
In addition to modifying the child’s learning environment, another antecedent-based intervention is to give a child choices. Rather than asking a child to complete a worksheet, we may give them a choice: Worksheet A or Worksheet B. Having a choice helps children to feel more confident and in-control – and increases the odds they’ll complete the task, rather than defiantly saying no.
Finally, we may engage children using motivating items, such as a toy, a favorite food, or a game/activity.
Consequence-Based Interventions and Extinction
And we also look at altering the consequences, or reinforcement. Parents and other caregivers sometimes unintentionally reinforce unexpected behavior with a “consequence” like time out or verbal admonishment that actually gives the child what they want (a break, attention, etc.). They may not necessarily see it as “negative,” even if it’s carried out in that context.
Redirection is one that we use frequently. It’s when we distract a child from a problem behavior, drawing their attention to a more appropriate solution/behavior.
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides ABA therapy to children in Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Cleveland, Akron, and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.
Applied Behavior Analysis, Autism, and Occupational Therapy: A Search for Understanding, July/August 2016, The American Journal of Occupational Therapy
More Blog Entries:
ABA Therapy Explainer: What’s a Functional Behavior Assessment? March 9, 2022, Cleveland ABA Therapy Blog