Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy for Kids with ASD

ABA (applied behavior analysis) is known as an effective treatment option for children on the spectrum. As a parent of an autistic child, you’ve probably heard of this therapy — but you may still have some questions you need answered before you decide if it is the right option for your child.

We’ll try to answer those questions by explaining what ABA therapy for kids is, how it works, how it can help your child, and at what age they should start the treatment. We’ll also talk about all the things you — the parent — can do to ensure your child achieves the therapy goals.

About Therapy

What Is ABA Therapy for Kids?

As its name suggests, ABA therapy is an approach to autism treatment that closely observes and analyzes children’s behavior and applies the findings to help them acquire the skills and develop habits they need to succeed in life. It also aims to identify and eliminate harmful or negative behaviors in children by encouraging them to learn and repeat positive alternatives.

Although ABA therapy is primarily recommended as a treatment for autistic children, research shows it may be effective in helping kids manage a range of other conditions. These include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), and certain behavioral aspects of Down syndrome

Moreover, a 2022 article suggested that the principles of ABA could be successfully applied to more than 350 domains of socially significant behavior.

How Does ABA for Children Work?

ABA therapy owes much of its success to the highly personalized approach to autism treatment. Namely, individual programs are tailored to each child’s specific symptoms, needs, and goals. The programs can also be adjusted at any time based on the child’s results.

All programs are organized into sessions, lasting 1–8 hours a day, up to 5 days a week. The program is run by a child therapist specializing in autism. Because ABA is a very flexible approach, the duration and frequency of the sessions will vary from one child to another. 

ABA therapists have numerous duties, including:

  • Providing the initial assessment of the child’s symptoms
  • Creating personalized behavior intervention plans
  • Designing and implementing activities to help achieve the plan’s goals
  • Closely monitoring the child’s progress and adjusting the plan if necessary

The intervention plan incorporates several science-backed ABA therapy methods for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as chosen by ABA therapists.

Some of the most commonly used ABA strategies include:

  • Positive reinforcement
  • Visual modeling
  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
  • Discrete Trial Training (DTT)
  • Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)

To ensure the child remains engaged throughout the sessions, therapists will develop fun activities and lessons based on these methods. For example, many ABA programs for kids involve guided play, which teaches the child how to handle toys and play with them. 

During the sessions, kids will also assemble puzzles and partake in different forms of pretend play (e.g., acting out stories, fixing toy cars with toy tools, hosting pretend tea parties, and more).

Where Do ABA Sessions Take Place?

Based on the session location, there are three types of ABA programs:

  • In-home ABA programs
  • School-based ABA programs
  • Center-based ABA programs

Following the initial assessment, the therapist and the child’s parents will discuss the options and determine which of these is the best environment for the child to make the most progress.

Abacus Therapies currently provides in-home and school-based ABA services for children in Florida and Georgia, on several locations. 

We are happy to announce we are opening an ABA therapy center in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Role of Parents in KidsABA Therapy

Parents’ engagement is essential for their child’s success in ABA therapy. ABA therapists will regularly consult with parents to ensure that the devised program and the chosen techniques are in the child’s best interest. Furthermore, therapists can’t supervise the child outside of sessions, so they rely on parents’ feedback to track the child’s progress and adjust the program accordingly.

As part of ABA therapy for kids with autism, parents are encouraged to attend their child’s sessions and watch the therapist at work. This will give them insight into the techniques the therapist relies on to motivate the child to use a newly learned skill or behavior. The parents can then help the child practice this skill or behavior at home by replicating the therapists’ methods.

Can You Do ABA for Autistic Kids at Home?

ABA therapy doesn’t end when the session is over. It continues at home — and parents are in charge there. While that might sound intimidating, parents can undergo ABA training to acquire all the skills and information to ensure their child’s continued progress even outside of sessions.

In a typical parent training session, you as a parent will meet with a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA), who is tasked with devising their child’s improvement plan. The BCBA will introduce you to all the ABA-related terminology and techniques, teach you how to collect data on your child’s progress, and give you concrete, homework-like goals to work on with your child.

Finally, there are numerous pastimes for kids with ASD that involve the whole family. These games, adventures, and pretend play activities are easy to organize and will help keep your child entertained during off-hours, while helping them continue to make progress on their ABA journey.

Main Goals of ABA Therapy for Autistic Kids

Decades of scientific research have shown that ABA can help autistic kids achieve the following:

  • Boosting language and communication skills
  • Acquiring and maintaining daily life skills
  • Improving social functioning and social interactions
  • Reducing problematic or harmful behaviors
  • Enabling autonomy in autistic kids
  • Increasing school participation and academic success

It’s important to note that autism is a heterogeneous condition, so no two autistic children will exhibit the same symptoms at the same time. This also means that each child will have different goals, and they will make progress and achieve their treatment goals at their own pace.

Can ABA for Kids With Autism Be Harmful?

Despite being widely accepted as an effective autism treatment, ABA therapy isn’t without its critics. By claiming that it uses punishment and other aversive methods and may even cause PTSD in kids, these critics make some parents wonder if ABA therapy could harm children.

While ABA therapy did once rely on punishment to achieve the desired goals, that was way back in the 1960s. Over the last six decades, the approach has kept evolving as we continue to learn more about autism. Apart from still being rooted in some core principles of behaviorism, ABA therapy today bears minimal resemblance to what it was when it originated. 

As long as it’s used correctly, ABA therapy is entirely safe and focused primarily on the child’s well-being.

What Is the Best Age to Start ABA for Autistic Children?

Autism can nowadays be reliably diagnosed by the age of 2, and professionals recommend an intervention as soon as the child receives a proper diagnosis. Because the child’s brain is more adaptable to changes at that age, starting ABA therapy at 2 could result in better outcomes.

This doesn’t mean that starting ABA therapy at the age of 6 or even later will inevitably lead to worse outcomes. Having successfully worked with children of all ages for years, we firmly believe that a carefully devised individual plan can lead to the best possible results for the child regardless of age.

How Abacus Therapies Can Help

Abacus Therapies started when one family with a child on the autism spectrum wanted to spread the word about ABA therapy for kids with ASD. With support from friends and family members, this wish has come true — and we have helped many children over the years.

At Abacus Therapies, we have a dedicated team of highly qualified ABA therapists who possess the knowledge, experience, and passion for helping children with ASD reach their full potential.

To get started on your ABA journey, you can begin by requesting a free consultation. Our therapists will talk to you — in person, on the phone, or via email — to explain how the process works and consult with you on your child’s needs and goals. Meanwhile, our financial team will provide you with information about the ABA therapy insurance coverage and other available financing options. 

Together, we’ll develop a custom-made improvement plan to help secure a better, brighter future for your child.

Let us help!

Our locations

We have several locations across the country where we offer ABA in-home therapy and school-based ABA therapy. 

Charlotte, North Carolina

Miami-Dade, South Florida

Broward, South Florida

Palm Beach, South Florida

Atlanta, Georgia

Abacus Therapies center-based ABA services are available in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Questions or concerns?
We’ve addressed some of the common ones here.

Our entire approach is rooted in your child and their needs, and from there develops with the family in mind. We take time to connect with your child, so we can discover the best way to help them, and you, develop and communicate.

Abacus Therapies works with many insurance companies to offer our families coverage, and our relationships with those companies means we can help you navigate what can be a very confusing process. If you aren’t covered, we’ll turn to our deep network of professionals to get you the best resources we can. Either way, get in touch with us to discuss your specific needs.

The diagnosis isn’t just about your child—it’s something that affects your whole family. Abacus Therapies is dedicated to working organically with children and families to grow naturally as a team, while incorporating the latest developments and best practices available.

The sessions will occur at home or at school, depending on the specific plan we create together. And while your entire family isn’t required to be present, we strongly believe everyone can benefit from being involved in therapy. Additionally, we provide parent and family training if requested.

Just as every diagnosis is different, every child responds to therapy differently and develops in their own time. We believe our focus is to connect with your child and build organically from there. Based on your child’s needs and milestones, we’ll develop a custom “road map” to help families through the process.

Your program will be custom to you and your child. We align with industry standards, which show that an intensive program early on can be extremely effective in your child’s ongoing development.

It’s often the case that your child will need continued support as they grow, but it’s not likely to be as intensive as in these early stages. We’ll know better when we understand your child’s unique needs.

Yes. We’ll work with your family’s specific scheduling needs and help build a plan that works for everyone.

We’ll do our best to staff you with a bilingual therapist. Generally, the therapy is conducted in English to support what your child is exposed to in school.

Bilingual therapy on request is only subject to availability of therapists. Reach out to us to find out more.

Therapy of this kind is a learning experience for you as well as for your child. Abacus Therapies will help you incorporate the lessons and tools from therapy into your day-to-day life.

You should speak to your child’s pediatrician for more information. Diagnosis requires a licensed neurologist or psychologist, and your pediatrician should be able to recommend someone for you.

We currently offer services to Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties in Florida, the Charlotte metro area in North Carolina, and in Atlanta, Georgia.

We work with a wide range of ages, starting from first diagnosis and early childhood, all the way through adolescence.

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