Applied Behavior Analysis

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the most common treatment for people with with autism. An effective ABA treatment program will build on the child’s interests, offer a predictable schedule, teach tasks as a series of simple steps, actively engage the child’s attention in highly structured activities, and provide regular reinforcement of behavior.

Parental involvement is also believed to be a major factor in treatment success. Parents work with teachers and therapists to identify the behaviors that need to be changed and the skills that should be taught. Recognizing that parents are the child’s earliest teachers, more programs are beginning to train parents to continue the therapy at home.

As soon as a child’s disability has been identified, instruction should begin. Effective programs will teach early communication and social interaction skills.

In children younger than three years of age, appropriate interventions usually take place in the home or a child care center. These interventions target specific problems with learning, language, imitation, attention, motivation, behaving, and interacting with others. Included are behavioral methods, communication, and therapy along with social play interventions.

Children older than three years usually have school-based, individualized, special education. The child may be in a separate class with other autistic children, or may be placed in a class with children without disabilities for at least part of the day. Different schools may use different methods but all should help the children learn social skills and communication. In these programs, teachers often involve the parents, giving useful advice on how parents can help their child use the skills or behaviors learned at school when at home.

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National Institute for Neurological Disorders