I'm not sure that ABA is suitable for my child? How does it work?

ABA is based on the principles of learning which apply to all people, not just children with autism. Every behaviour and skill that we all learn is a result of the same processes used in ABA! An ABA program will use a developmental assessment to identify your child’s current skills and skill deficits, and then develop an individualised set of programs to break down priority skills into smaller, easy to learn steps. Once your child can consistently do those easy steps, they are put back together and increased in complexity until your child is able to do the big picture skill independently.

Isn't ABA all about rote learning. Will it turn my child into a robot?

Rote learning and turning kids into robots is a pervasive myth about ABA. High quality, individualised, and well-supervised ABA programs do not consist solely of rote learning. For early learners, or when teaching skills that are really tricky for your child, it is sometimes necessary to break the skill down into very simple steps and teach it in a highly structured way. However, the goal is always to use that simple, structured teaching strategy as a first step, before beginning to teach the skill in more flexible real life ways. Generalisation – the ability to use skills flexibly in many different situations – is a key focus of high quality ABA programs. 

Will ABA professionals work with Occupational Therapists and Speech Pathologists?

ABA programs often collaborate with other professionals specialising in children with autism, like OTs, Speech Pathologists, teachers and educators to provide a consistent, team approach to your child’s learning and reduction of problem behaviours. If your child is receiving services from multiple service providers, it’s a good idea to speak to each of your professionals to identify if and how they collaborate with other services. Discussions via email, phone, or face-to-face meetings may be important to ensure consistency for your child, and to get the most out of the services they are receiving.

Isn't ABA just like animal training and does it use punishment?

Another pervasive myth about ABA is that it just uses dog training and relies exclusively on punishment. This is not the case in contemporary ABA programs, where the rights of the individual learner are of the highest priority. Many strategies used by skilled animal trainers use the same principles of learning as ABA, including prompting, breaking skills down into small, easy to learn steps, and the use of reinforcement. This is because animals learn in the same ways that humans do. It does not mean that the strategies used in ABA treat people like animals. Skilled ABA practitioners adhere to a code of ethics that requires them to identify reinforcement based, positive support strategies to help the person learn new appropriate behaviours and decrease inappropriate behaviours, before any punishment based strategies are used. When punishment based strategies are used, it is important to note that in ABA the term ‘punishment’ means any consequence that follows a behaviour that results in that behaviour occurring less in the future. Everyday examples of punishment include giving feedback (“not quite, try again”), withholding privileges following inappropriate behaviour (child hits their sibling so does not get to watch TV that afternoon), or increasing non-preferred activities following inappropriate behaviour (at dinner child won’t sit down, yells, and throws their food on the floor, so parent has the child put their plate away, pick the food up off the floor, and wipe down the table). 

How do we know that ABA will work?

ABA is an evidence based approach to teaching based on over 40 years of scientific research demonstrating that it is effective. Research has shown it is an effective way to teach a wide range of skills to people across the lifespan from babies to adults. It has been demonstrated to be effective for people with autism, a range of other developmental disabilities, and typically developing people who don’t have a disability. ABA is currently the only treatment for autism with an established body of research providing evidence that it is effective to teach new skills, and to reduce inappropriate behaviours that present a barrier to learning, or a potential danger to the individual and people around them.

Do you use a set assessment and curriculum?

In order to fully understand your child’s strengths and skill deficits we will complete a comprehensive developmental assessment at the commencement of a program. Re-assessments will occur every 6-12 months in order to monitor your child’s progress. The specific assessment used will depend on your child’s age, level of functioning, and the goals your child is aiming to achieve.

Our programs are individualised for each client and therefore we do not use a set curriculum. After an initial assessment and meeting with the child and family, individualised goals are determined which will guide the direction of your child’s program.

How do I find Behaviour Therapists?

In order to achieve the recommended number of therapy hours for a behaviour intervention program, many families employ in-home therapists to work 1:1 with their child. We assist you by putting you in touch with potential behaviour therapists whose availability may suit your schedule, however we do not employ them directly. Our families can also recruit potential therapists themselves. A great website for finding and recruiting therapists is the Facebook page ABA Therapy Directory Australia. You can also find therapists by advertising on university job boards, and other job search websites.

Once you have recruited a new therapist, we provide the therapist with their initial theoretical training, as well as extensive practical training with your child. This includes completing online training modules, attending a workshop with our program supervisors, completing observations of ABA sessions with a range of learners, and being specifically trained to work with your child. We know that maintaining a high standard of intervention is key to your child’s success, so ongoing supervision and training of your therapists’ is a priority for your Program Supervisor.

Will NDIS fund an ABA program?

Yes, the NDIS will fund ABA as an intervention for children and older clients with autism. We are not currently an NDIS approved provider and therefore families will need to self-manage their NDIS funds to access funding for a program with us. If you are not currently self-managing your NDIS funds, you can ask for this to be changed via contacting your NDIS planner or local office.

The Raising Children Network is a parenting website that is endorsed by the Australian Government Department of Social Services. This website supports ABA as an established effective intervention for children with autism. Click the link to find out more http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/applied_behaviour_analysis_th.html

Doesn’t ABA just use bribery?

This is one of the most common ABA myths we come across! Bribery and reinforcement can be easily confused but they are not the same thing and it all depends on timing. If you said to your child as they sat down for dinner, “if you do a great job of eating your dinner, then you can have some ice-cream for dessert”, this would be considered reinforcement. But, if you waited for your child to start screaming at the table and refusing to eat their dinner and then you said, “if you calm down and eat your dinner you can have some ice-cream for dessert”, this would be considered bribery. Opportunities to use reinforcement occur BEFORE undesired behaviour occurs. Bribery occurs AFTER the undesirable behaviour has already started. Further, bribery is often used to coerce people into doing something illegal, immoral, or something else they shouldn’t be doing. In contrast, reinforcement is used in ABA programs to increase appropriate behaviours that increase your child’s independence, participation in family, education, or community activities, and/or reduce their engagement in problem behaviours.

What if my child doesn’t have autism?

ABA is based on the principles of learning which apply to all people, not just children with autism. Your child does not need to have a diagnosis of autism to benefit from ABA. Many children with other developmental delays or children who engage in challenging behaviour may require support in achieving their goals. Contact us to discuss your child’s unique needs and we can assist in determining if we are the right service provider for your child.

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