We specialize in behavioral consulting and therapy services. Our goal is to provide highly effective treatment for children with autism and their families by following a method scientifically proven to bring clear results. We use Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), a method based on extensive, clinical peer reviewed research. We have been helping families since 2001.
ABA does not teach a child HOW or WHY to do something; it only trains them to behave in a certain way.
This deals with the mistaken idea that in ABA programs, children are not being taught to be independent thinkers but merely trained to react to stimuli. All learning has some aspect of rote memorization and practiced routine, whether you are in an ABA program, regular school classroom, or simply learning from your parents at home. There are always going to be things that a child is expected to do, “Just because Mom / Dad / Teacher said so.” Additionally, there will always be a behavior we choose without thinking. When discussing “training,” one is generally talking about creating habits of behavior – things we do without thinking about them. However, this fact has nothing to do with ABA but rather how all people learn. Many of our behavior choices in life are reactions and habits. When it is time to brush your teeth you do not think about each of the behaviors used to make that happen (wetting the toothbrush, squeezing the toothpaste, raising your hand to your mouth etc.). These habits have all formed the way they have because guided practice has led to success. Success then leads to repetition. It is true that ABA is very successful in breaking down seemingly simple tasks such as brushing teeth and teaching them in small steps to help a child find success where they might not otherwise. However, the premise that ABA is limited to only teaching this sort of memorized or habitual task is absolutely false.
Just like any form of teaching, a good ABA program needs to be designed to teach to all the needs of the individual. This includes concepts such as complex language, social interaction, problem solving, flexible thinking, and theory of mind (such as understanding things from other people’s perspectives). Although these skills are much more complex in nature, they are not immune to the same behavioral principles that guide all of our learning. The issue then becomes, “how creative and experienced is the person running the ABA program at addressing this sort of learning?” In the early days of ABA, there was less experience addressing these more complex learning processes. Thus, some early ABA programs may have been deficient. However, that was a result of the professional’s inexperience applying the principles and not problems with the principles themselves. The benefit of ABA is that it is a science and therefore progress made anywhere in the world is made available to all through the studies published in scientific journals. Over the past 40 years there have been an uncountable number of breakthroughs and experience gained addressing even the most complex human issues with the principles of ABA. It is important to remember that ABA is the science of what works.
Discourages socialization by keeping kids home.
ABA therapy encourages socialization by teaching children the pre-requisite skills they need to be successful in a social environment before placing them into an automatic self-contained placement. When children are placed into a more stressful social school or other social environments without the pre-requisite skills, they are significantly more likely to have an increased level of behavioral programs, which decreases the likelihood that they will be successful in a classroom setting and make friends. Compare this to being dropped off at college while you were only a high school freshman – would you have been ready socially?
ABA just uses food and toys to bribe kids into doing things / ABA gets kids hooked on edible rewards.
One of the most misunderstood concepts of ABA is the value and importance of reinforcement. ABA is a reinforcement based science. We understand that, in life, the things we do that are followed by positive changes in our environment are most often the things we choose to do again. This “success leading to repetition” is what creates our behavior patterns and ultimately helps us to determine the kind of people we are to become. The fact that reinforcement is defined as occurring after a behavior shows that the terms “Bribe” and “Reinforcement” are not synonymous. Bribes involve saying to someone, “If you do this, I will give you this.” Bribes are dependent on a negotiation before the behavior occurs. Since reinforcement occurs only after a behavior is completed, they are not one in the same. In fact, most ABA programs teach that the use of “If, Then,” statements are often contrary to good teaching. Additionally, there is nothing in the definition of reinforcement that dictates what reinforcement is or can be. It only dictates when reinforcement occurs and what it does for a behavior. The actual stimulus that serves as reinforcement should not and cannot be determined by the ABA program developer. Instead, reinforcement is always determined by what actually does increase future behavior.
In general, some forms of food, accessibility of items, physical or mental stimulation, attention, and praise act as the reinforcement for most everything we do. We eat because it tastes good and/or to nourish our bodies, read books because it stimulates our brains in positive ways and tend to be nice to others because it gives us some combination of attention, praise and self-satisfaction. The same is true for children with autism but to differing degrees. Depending on the child, it is quite possible that none of these higher-level stimuli support behavior change. That leaves us with only lower level items to work with at the start of a program. Food, physical play, music, videos, and toys are often good early reinforcers that help a child learn important new skills. But, as important as it is to identify what currently works as reinforcement for a child, it is just as important to increase the amount and level of reinforcement that is meaningful to the child.
Another critical component of a good ABA program is the move to work from lower level reinforcers such as food to higher level reinforcers such as praise over time, and to reduce the frequency at which the child is being reinforced.
What does the research on ABA Therapy show?
Over the past 40 years, a number of peer-reviewed studies have been completed evaluating the effects of using a specific group of ABA techniques in a “comprehensive, individualized, intensive early intervention program for children with autism,” achieving extremely positive results. “Comprehensive” refers to the fact that intervention addressees all types of skills; “Early” means that intervention began before the age of four for most children in many of the studies; and “Intensive” referred to the number of hours / week received by the children (ranges between 25-40 hours per week).
Who oversees my ABA program?
ABA falls under the jurisdiction of the Psychology Board, therefore a licensed psychologist or licensed psychological associate must oversee your child’s program. Just having a BCBA does not allow a person to practice Psychology. All of our consultants are both licensed psychologists (LPA) and Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA).
Can I, as a parent, be trained to conduct therapy?
Yes! A strong ABA program is one where the parents are highly involved. We train parents to teach ABA therapy techniques to their child in addition to the specific programs their child will be learning. This allows for improved consistency and communication about the child’s program and progress.