Can I use ABA therapy at home with my child; if so, how?

You, as a parent, are one of the most important people in your child's life, which makes you an indispensable part of your child's ABA.

Your active engagement in the therapy under the guidance of a trained ABA therapist can show very significant improvements. You know your child the best, and can provide insightful information that guides ABA therapy. As a parent, you can also continue to prompt your child to learn good behavior and reinforce this through his/ her various daily activities. You can help in teaching your child generalize their skills to all settings.

Implementing ABA therapeutic techniques at home can be done in a fun way.

  • A common starting point in ABA therapy is the 'Sit In Chair' Activity. Sit opposite to your child and prompt him/her to give you eye contact. Eye contact is a prerequisite skill to teach a variety of other skills to your child at home.

  • Conduct a Preference assessment with your child at home. Observe and test which objects are the most preferred ones for you child. Use those objects as potential reinforcers in order to teach them a skill.

  • Reward your child appropriately for good behavior and tasks completion. Set up a clear system of rewards (point system, gold stars, preferred toy or edibles) so that he/she understands what to expect when he/she completes a task or refine his/her behavior.

  • Be consistent with your child while placing a demand. In case s/he tantrums too much reduce the demand or physically prompt him/her to complete the task but remember don't stop the task otherwise you will reward the wrong behavior.

  • Designate a separate room or a part of a room that is your child's special area. Avoid brilliant colors or complex patterns in decor. Simplicity, solid colors, minimal clutter, not near a window, proper lighting and a worktable facing a blank wall away from distractions/ blocking his/her access will help to increase attention and concentration.

  • Establish a clear routine. Construct a timetable for waking, eating, play, television, study, chores and bedtime. You can also make a visual schedule for your child.

  • Make your child clean up his/her toys after activity is completed

  • Social Skills Training and Modeling needs to be conducted with your child so that s/he has clear ideas as to what constitutes in socially adaptive behavior. Teach your child how to behave in social situations and conduct a role play so that s/he is given adequate practice before being put into a social situation.

Basic principles of ABA:

It is important to remember the basic principles of ABA before implementing an ABA program at home.

  • Antecedent: These are events that occur immediately before a behavior. An antecedent is what was happens right before the behavior occurred. It could be an instruction given by the therapist for the child to perform an action.
    E.g., "touch your head", "do the puzzle"

  • Behavior: Everything a person does, say, feel, or think is a behavior. E.g., touching head, completing a puzzle.

  • Consequence: Anything that happens after the behavior has occurred. E.g., reactions from the therapist, a special treat, verbal praise, etc.

Antecedent Manipulations (before the behavior has occurred)

a. Task Clarification:
Break down task into smaller easier steps. Give clear precise instructions.

b. Environment modification:
Reduce distractions in the environment. Arrange the environment such that the most interesting thing within sight is the activity you want the child to engage in.

c. Routines/ Schedules with breaks:
Set clear routines with frequent breaks so that the child's day is structured.

d. Rules/expectations:
Be very firm and clear with what you are asking the child to do. Set age-appropriate expectations.

e. Behavior contracts:
Written contracts where both, you and your child sign your acceptance of the terms of the contracts.

f. Capturing motivation:
Make the activity interesting by engaging in the activity with the your child. Be cheerful and excited when teaching.

Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy in Autism, Autism Connect

First and Then Statements used in ABA Statistics regarding ABA

Shaping a child's behavior involves three steps: tell, show, do

  • Tell:
    Give an instruction to your child such as "put your toys back"; wait for few seconds for him/her to comply, and if s/he complies at that point provide a huge reinforcement ( verbal praise, clap, favorite food), if not then 'Show'

  • Show:
    Repeat the instruction by modeling or gesturing what you want him/her to do such as "put your toys back like this" by actually picking up a few toys and put them away. Wait again for a few seconds for a compliance. If they do comply at this point, provide reinforcement but to a lesser degree, if they don't then 'Do'.

  • Do:
    Physically prompt the child to complete the behavior of putting the toys back.

Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy in Autism, Autism Connect

Shaping behavior using physical prompts

Image Courtesy: Mashpedia

Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy in Autism, Autism Connect

Shaping behavior using modelling

Image Courtesy: Amondsmith

Consequence Manipulations (things to do after a behavior has occurred)

a. Reinforcement:
You can give an incentive/ reward to increase the frequency of good behavior. You can use it to help increase the probability that a specific behavior will occur in the future by giving a reward/stimulus immediately after the behavior is exhibited. Reinforcement can be both Positive as well as Negative.

  • Positive Reinforcement involves presenting a stimulus to the child after the desired behavior is exhibited making that behavior more likely to occur in future.
    E.g.: You can give your child a cookie when s/he keeps his toys back in the cupboard. Here, the cookie is a positive reinforcer to reinforce the behavior of keeping the toys back.

  • Negative Reinforcement involves when a stimulus is removed after the behavior is exhibited.
    E.g.: Your child keeps his/her toys back in the cupboard to avoid solving puzzle which he/she doesn't like.

  • Token economy: You can set up a clear system of rewards so your child knows what to expect after behaving in a socially desirable manner and exchanging those tokens/ rewards for a bigger reward.
    Eg- collecting 10 coins in a day in exchange of half an hour of cartoons.

Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy in Autism, Autism Connect

Token Economy

Image Courtesy: TokenEducation

b. Punishment:
Incentive/Reward taken away to decrease the frequency of behavior. Punishment is a process by which a consequence immediately follows a behavior which decreases the frequency of that behavior to occur in future. Punishment can be both Positive as well as Negative.

  • Positive punishment involves presenting a negative consequence after an undesirable behavior is exhibited making that behavior less likely to occur in future.
    E.g.: If your child engages in aggressive behavior with other children you can make him/her finish two pages of worksheet which s/he doesn't like.

  • Negative punishment involves removing a desired stimulus after an undesirable behavior is exhibited.
    E.g.: taking away a toy that your child likes, if he/she engages in an aggressive manner.

c. Extinction:
Not rewarding/recognizing a behavior that is undesirable. It involves stop reinforcing a behavior after a point of time resulting in decreased probability of that behavior.

d. Planned ignoring:
Occurs when an adult ignores minor irritants in a child. It requires the adult to determine which behaviors will stop on its own and which behaviors need intervention, such as physical harm or damage to property.


Other Questions 

What is ABA?

Does my child need ABA?

How does ABA help my child with Autism?

Who can provide ABA for my child?

Where can ABA be practiced?

At what age should I start ABA for my child with Autism?

Does ABA work for High Functioning children?

What does an ABA Program involve?

Won't there be too many demands placed on my child during ABA therapy? Should I be worried?

What are the materials I should use in ABA therapy?

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