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Many parents who are first starting ABA as part of their child’s early intervention (or may have had some experience with ABA therapy) often ask the question, “will my child be sitting at the table the whole time?”. For Early Intervention (EI) clients, the answer should be no. Early Intervention ABA Therapy focuses on a combination of teaching developmentally appropriate skills and reducing challenging behaviours. How many small children do you know who spend 2+ hours a day seated at a small table with an adult? I imagine the answer is none.
ABA Therapy might teach children some skills at the table because this is a good way to ensure focus, reduce distractions and deliver the maximum number of learning opportunities. However, once these skills are mastered at the table then Natural Environment Training and generalisation should be used so these skills can consolidate. There is no point in children having ‘therapy skills’ and no practical skills.
What skills can be taught?
ABA can focus on improving play, social skills, daily living skills and toilet training. If these are socially significant goals for your family and your child, then ABA can teach these using the same principles of learning applied when teaching a child to discriminate between two flash cards. Social relationships, which is often one of the most difficult skills for children with an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis, should be taught in a way that will open up opportunities with peers, not just therapists and adults, and sets children up for success in real life situations.
Daily living skills (such as brushing teeth, washing, dressing etc) can all be taught using ABA in the natural environment. Your Program Manager should be able to develop a behaviour chain for any skill, and teach it to your child until they are able to function independently. The goal for any skill is that is provides benefit to the child, whether that be increased independence, increased access to learning, or increased access to relationships.
Early intervention ABA should use a range of strategies
It is important to have realistic expectations of children in a therapy context, including how much time is age appropriate to spend at a table. ABA programs should be comprehensive and focus on more than table top skills. They should be individualised and consider self care, social relationships and play as well as language development and verbal behaviour milestones. They should use a range of strategies to ensure that all that valuable learning can be used in different contexts.
If you have any questions about your child’s program please contact your Program Manager on 9274 7062.
ABACAS Program Manager