Applied Behavioral Analysis in Autism Therapy

There’s no common intervention for children having autism spectrum disorder. Most individuals, however, respond best to structured behavioral programs. Applied behavioral analysis is one of the most popular interventions, along with occupational and speech therapy, floortime therapy, and other methods.

Behavior analysis is a natural science and was first introduced by BF Skinner in the 1930s. The methods and principals of behavior analysis have been successfully applied in several areas. For instance, methods using the principle of positive reinforcement, have been effectively used to develop a wide range of skills among learners with and without impairments.

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Since the early 1960s, hundreds of behavioral analysts have applied positive reinforcement and associated principles to build social, communication, academic, play, work, self-care and community living skills, and lessen the problematic behaviors among learners of all ages having autism.

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Some applied behavioral analysis includes instructions that are directed by adults in a highly structured fashion. Others use the natural interests of the autistic child and follow his/her initiations. Others may impart skills in context of ongoing activities. The skills involved in an applied behavioral analysis are broken down to small steps or components. The learners are offered several repeated opportunities for learning and practicing the skills in diverse types of settings. They are supported with abundant positive reinforcements. The intervention goals as well as the particular types of instructions and reinforcements used, are customized according to strengths and weaknesses of each individual learner. The output and performance is continuously measured by direct observation. The intervention may then be modified if the data reveals that the child is not making any progress as intended.

Notwithstanding the age of the learner who has autism spectrum disorder, the goal of applied behavioral analysis is to enable an autistic child to function as successfully and independently as possible in various environments, and especially pick up social communication skills.

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