It is not uncommon for a therapist to recommend Applied Behavioral Analysis as a part of therapy for your child on the autism spectrum. This is because not only is ABA considered to be one of the most tried and tested interventions, but it also plays a key role in shaping the behavior of a child with autism through a systematic approach that can be altered to the needs of the child.
According to AppliedBehaviorAnalysisEdu.Org, “Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the practice of applying the psychological principles of learning theory in a systematic way to modify behavior.”
ABA utilizes the principle of the learning theory that states that any desired behavior can be developed through a system of rewards and consequences.
What’s great about ABA is that its techniques can be employed at home by the parents or the caregivers of the child. Challenging behaviors can be modified by using techniques that you can easily execute at home.
Since the home environment plays a huge role in your child’s overall functioning and development; ABA techniques utilized at home, work in tandem with the therapy your child might be seeking with a professional; thus ensuring greater effectiveness of the therapy outcomes.
Let’s take a look at some of the ABA techniques that you can use at home with your child –
- Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement works through the system of reward or praise in exchange for desirable behavior. This is a straightforward technique wherein you can encourage and maintain desirable habits or behaviors through rewards. Suppose, you want to instill the habit of cleaning up after playtime in your child; in such a situation, every time the child manages to put away her toys she will be rewarded with a desired object, verbal praise, or specific activities that the child enjoys.
It is up to you to choose the reward based on your child’s preference. An important thing to keep in mind would be to make sure that along with reinforcing the behavior; you also reinforce the effort of the child towards attaining that behavior.
Remember to present the reward to your child every time the desired behavior is displayed. This will ensure that the behavior is learned as well as maintained adequately.
- Video Modeling
If your child is a visual learner, this technique might prove to be incredibly effective in teaching your child certain behaviors. Video Modeling is a technique through which your child could learn about appropriate behaviors through observing others.
For example, if you wish to teach your child about the appropriate ways to greet someone, watching a video of other kids showcasing that behavior might prove useful in teaching your child about socially-appropriate greetings. You could then ask your child to practice his greeting with you or other members of the family.
Video Modeling is impactful in teaching children about certain social protocols that they might find difficult to pick up from their environment. Children can also be taught communication skills and play skills through this technique.
- Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
Developed at the Delaware Autistic Program, PECS is an ABA technique that is used for non-verbal children. This technique helps children communicate their wants and needs with the help of pictures.
For example, if you want to teach your child to communicate her need for wanting to eat an apple; through PECS she will learn that once she hands over a picture of an apple she will receive the apple.
There are official PECS cards available that you can purchase online. However, these can be quite expensive or not contain specific pictures of your child’s favorite items. An alternative to buying PECS cards is to make your own picture cards at home. You can cut out pictures from magazines or even draw images with the help of your child. Label each cards and categorize them into different categories for food, clothing items, toys, etc.
To use PECS effectively, start with explaining to your child that if he wants a particular item, he must show you a picture of it. Let’s use the previous example of wanting to eat an apple –
Start by placing the apple on a table, out of reach of your child. Then explain to the child that if she wants the apple, she must give you the card with an apple on it. Once your child does so, make sure to hand over the apple to him and give him a verbal affirmation.
As your child begins to get a hang of the system, provide him with additional cards of various categories.
Later on, you could encourage your child to form sentences. A card with the words “I want” written on it could be given to your child and he could be taught to use that card along with the card of an item that he desires to have.
- Prompting and Fading
‘Prompting’ refers to cues or gentle reminders that are provided to the child while teaching her a particular behavior. ‘Fading’ is the gradual reduction in the prompts. This technique provides added support to the child while ensuring an errorless type of learning.
Prompts can be of various types and can be used according to what works the best for your child and the type of behavior you wish to teach her. Prompts can be of the verbal, gestural, physical, visual, positional, or modeling type.
If you wish to teach your child to pick up a toy, you could use a verbal prompt by saying, “please pick up the toy.” If the child does not respond, a more supportive prompt can be used. You could place the toy near your child and give a verbal command or demonstrate the process of picking up the toy.
Remember to try to use as less amount of prompting as possible. Eventually, as your child learns the particular skill or behavior, you could move on to subtler gestures and cues; until the prompts are faded completely in a systematic and controlled manner.
These were some of the most common techniques used in ABA that can be replicated at home. Comment down below if you have ever used these (or other) ABA techniques with your child!