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Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy for Autism: Take Two

Alethea Mshar
Special needs mom and Blogger
06/10/19  8:40 AM PST
ABA therapy

Our son, Benjamin, was diagnosed with autism right around his 9th birthday, a late diagnosis for sure. We didn’t have an accurate picture of autism when it co-occurs with Down syndrome and his multiple, serious medical concerns. We see autism as a descriptor of who he is, a term that helps us understand how he views and interacts with the world. By the time he was diagnosed he had many serious and dangerous behaviors that needed more help than normal parental guidance could offer.

We looked into ABA therapy right away, and after our first trial we found that the therapy wasn’t addressing the massive meltdowns he had, but rather was chipping away at only his minor behaviors. We halted the program and regrouped. Now, over 3 years later, we’re back at it, and off to a great start.

We had some concerns about the ABA therapy at first.

We’ve read stories of autistic adults who have serious concerns about the way they were treated in ABA therapy and we did not want to do more harm than good. Since Ben has an intellectual disability and medical needs, we often have to make him do things like taking medicine and do medical procedures that he does not understand. Because he doesn’t understand he can act out violently, and a systemic approach to helping him cope with his life by giving him rewards for the things he must do anyway, is a huge improvement in his quality of life. For Ben, we hope that rather than forcing him to behave according to neurotypical norms in order to assimilate, that by minimizing public meltdown behaviors and teaching him to wait for things like launching the boat into the water without getting so frustrated that he cannot enjoy boating once it starts, or to stay at the park for a picnic on a lovely spring day rather than hyper-focusing on his need to go home after less than 10 minutes, we can open up his world to many good things that he is currently unable to participate in, much less enjoy.

His therapy is done in our home, under our watchful eyes, so we know that he is not under duress. We also know that it’s not a catch-all or perfect answer for everyone on the autism spectrum, and that discernment is needed for each family to choose the best path for their child.

To learn more about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, visit Autismspeaks.org. Topics covered include:

  • What is Applied Behavior Analysis?
  • How Does ABA Therapy Work?
    • Positive Reinforcement
    • Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence
  • What Does an ABA Program Involve?
    • Planning and Ongoing Assessment
    • ABA Techniques and Philosophy
  • Who Provides ABA Services?
  • What is the Evidence zyhat ABA Works?
  • Is ABA Covered by Insurance? 
  • Where Do I Find ABA Services?
  • What Questions Should I Ask?

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Alethea Mshar is a Special Needs Mom and Blogger.
Read her blog, Ben’s Writing, Running Mom
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