Evidence-Based Practice of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)1 is widely used in helping children with autism.
A strict process is defined to help those with autism obtaining different skills. It is often conducted by a senior board-certified behavior analyst2 overseeing instruction therapists or registered behavior technicians executing behavior plans.
In most cases, it starts with observation and analysis. The therapist conducts preference assessment to find out the child’s interests and preferences. The finding is later on used to encourage or discourage behaviors.
Data on target behaviors will be collected: frequency of occurrence, triggers and such. It is to figure out how to increase the desired behaviors and decreased the unwanted behaviors.
Task analysis is conducted to the steps to achieve the behavior goals, so the child can learn step by step. For example, to butter a piece of toast, the child might have to first learn to hold a butter knife, or a spoon. Gradually, the child would learn to put bread into the toaster, to get the toast after waiting the bread is properly toasted, etc.
ABA is widely used as it is one of the few therapies that provide clear evidence on improving behavioral challenges.
However, recently there are controversies surrounding ABA therapy. Some adults with autism claim they are traumatized by ABA therapy in their childhood. Earlier forms of ABA therapy are seen abusive and harmful in today’s standard and some conclude it as “bad teaching” but not ABA itself.3