19 February 2020

What is ABA? And Can it Help Your Autistic Child?

As a mum of an autistic child (and the wife of an autistic husband) I know a lot of parents really struggle when it comes to the behavioral aspects that present themselves through autism. Some behaviours such as stimming aren't really an issue for most, it certainly isn't for us as both my son and husband do this, however there's some undesirable behaviours such as aggression, obsessions with technology or lack of eating/trying new food which can sometimes cause issues.

I recently heard of ABA and desperately wanted to find out more about it and what it can offer to someone on the spectrum. So in short ABA is Applied Behaviour Analysis, it's the science of human behaviour which in turn has been used as a therapy to help certain learning and behaviour patterns. There's a longer and more complicated definition which states: "Applied Behaviour Analysis = the science in which tactics derived from the principles of behavior are applied systematically to improve socially significant behavior, and experimentation is used to identify the variables responsible for behavior change (Cooper, Heron and Heward 2007)." The goal is to increase behaviours that are helpful and decrease behaviours that are harmful or affect learning.

Hopefully that all makes sense so far to you as it does to me. It's probably something we use in our day to day lives but since autistic behaviors can be more extreme they are often harder to help (and oh how I've been there with both my son and husband) and that's where ABA therapy can come in and help in real life situations. The practice is used extensively in education, healthcare, animal training, and business management. It is particularly prominent in the treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), for which it is one of the only scientifically valid therapies available.

It's as simple as rewarding the good behaviour and trying to alter the unwanted behaviour without causing massive upset to the person involved. I can liken it to something we've been working on with my son. He is particularly obsessed with his PlayStation. He would play it for hours if we let him and a few years ago would have major meltdowns if he had to turn it off. We've worked really hard with him, giving him timers, warnings when to come off, reward incentives etc and it was super super hard to start with but we stuck to it and he's gradually got better and better. He now realises that he gets nothing if he presents bad behaviour but if he comes off without a fuss then he gets a reward. He isn't getting stressed, neither are us as parents and it's an all round winner. This was very difficult for us to do and stick to as the meltdowns aren't easy to deal with and I would have loved to have had the support and guidance from an expert who knew what they were doing. The NHS is great but sometimes for autism and mental health etc everything takes twice as long to get done. It's soul destroying for parents and really frustrating.

That's where Gemma from Keys for Learning comes in. She offers lots of different services and support from Therapy, Online/Distance Coaching, Parent Training Courses, Social Skills Club, Nursery School Training and Webinars. If I'd have known Gemma existed then I would have definitely been in touch when my son was younger. We've done everything from speech and language, parenting sessions and CAHMS and to be honest nothing has really worked for us apart from great support from the school and putting our sensible approaches into action. It's been tough so expert support would have been much appreciated.

So how can ABA help? It can; increase language and communication skills, improve attention & focus, social skills and academics and decrease problem behaviours. Behaviour analysis has been used and studied for decades. It has helped many kinds of learners gain different skills – from healthier lifestyles (e.g. smoking cessation and adhering to a healthy diet and exercise regime) to learning a new language. It's aimed at a wide variety of people but can also be used to help those on the spectrum.

How can ABA therapy work for someone who is autistic? ABA involves many techniques for understanding and changing behaviour. It can be tailored to meet the needs of each unique person. It can be used in many different locations e.g. at home, at school, and in the community to keep everything uniform. It teaches skills that are useful in everyday life i.e. coping strategies and it can be offered in a one-to-one setting or group instruction.

You might be thinking that all sounds great but how do I know someone working with my child is genuine and has had the proper training? ABA services can only be provided by a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA), a board certified assistant behaviour analyst (BCaBA), and a registered behaviour technician (RBT). To become a BCBA, the following is needed: earn a master’s degree or PhD in psychology or behaviour analysis and pass a national certification exam. ABA therapy programs can also involve therapists, parents, or teachers. These people are trained and supervised by the BCBA. They work directly with children and adults with autism to practice skills and work toward the individual goals written by the BCBA.

Typically developing children learn without intervention as the world around them provides the right conditions to learn language, play, and social skills. Children with autism learn less easily from the environment. They have the potential to learn, but it takes a very structured environment, one where conditions are optimised for acquiring the same skills typical children learn “naturally.” ABA provides the tools to structure the environment to enable children with autism to learn.

I really believe that early intervention can really help people with autism. It's a big scary place out there and providing our autistic loved ones with the skills they need to feel comfortable in their environment can really help. My husband didn't have any early intervention and wasn't diagnosed until after our son. His diagnosis played a big part in helping him come to terms with his behaviours and also making him feel more comfortable and empowered in his own skin.

Decades of research have validated treatments based on ABA to support its efficacy in teaching young children with autism and other related learning difficulties. ABA is the only scientifically validated treatment for ASD and is recommended by the U.S Surgeon General.  As with all educational fields it’s a dynamic field and continues to develop with the ever growing research.

If you feel like this is something that could benefit your child and your family then do get in touch with Gemma via the Keys for Learning website. She's super friendly, open minded and definitely does not judge. There's also no pressure what so ever so if you change your mind at any stage it's not an issue. She's there to help and set you on the right path. Gemma also has some fab new Parenting Courses which have literally just been released so please do check them out at Keys For Learning.

Here's some more info below for you to consider;

The Behaviour Academy: proven strategies to reduce challenging behaviours and fulfill your child’s potential

Living with a child who frequently engages in challenging behaviour isn't easy.  

Many of the parents I have worked with are utterly fed up with the lack of meaningful support available and are often at their wits end feeling:


But, the good news is, it doesn't have to be this way!

Learn Strategies to Teach your Child with Autism New Skills and Reduce Challenging Behaviours without the overwhelm, stress and frustration.

**Feel empowered by upskilling yourself*

There is no one more motivated than a parent to teach their own child so let me train you how to become your child’s best teacher. 

I can guide you, step-by-step, to help you create and implement an effective plan to help your child experience REAL positive change; increase language and daily living skills whilst reducing problem behaviours. 

Feel confident and in control to fulfil your child's potential.

**What's it all about??**
This 12 week interactive course is an evidence based parent training curriculum that will teach you all of the necessary tools to reduce your child’s disruptive behaviours AND teach them new skills.

You will learn hands-on strategies that work and that you can start using immediately!

Each session introduces effective behaviour change strategies and includes:
• easy-to-use activity sheets,
• checklists,
• take-home activity sheets to help you apply what they have learned each week. 

The Behaviour Academy will…
1. Help you feel confident, empowered and in control.
2. Provide you with hands-on strategies that you can use immediately with your child.
3. Give you the knowledge to understand why your child behaves the way they are and how you can change their behaviour for the better.
5. Provide you with the support and guidance you need to learn and implement the content.

There are limited spaces available so that members can receive regular support and mentorship.

Open to professionals too

Still unsure or have some questions??? 
Let's have a chat on the phone to see if this course is the right fit for you.  Text Gemma to arrange a phone call on 07706892957

This is a collaborative post. All opinions are my own. I understand that ABA is not for everyone but no one should have the choice taken away from them and their family.

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