How ABA Therapy Helps Children on the Autism Spectrum

May 10, 2024 | Education

Autism can be a challenging diagnosis for parents and children. The disorder is characterized by difficulties with social interaction, attention span problems, and issues handling unexpected changes, such as a switch in routine. Without treatment, autistic children may struggle to form friendships, succeed in the classroom, or develop critical life skills such as good hygiene.

Thankfully, there are many therapeutic approaches to managing autism, including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). This therapy focuses on rewarding children for positive behavior using both classic and operant conditioning, which are key underpinnings of modern psychological theory.

ABA therapists work throughout the country, meaning that parents across states can find assistance. Whether you need ABA therapy in Charlotte, NC, or elsewhere, you can find a skilled therapist who can provide a custom-made ABA therapy for the child on the spectrum.

While there are numerous ways that ABA therapy helps autistic children, here are some of the key strengths of this method.

Children Can Practice Their Social Skills

One of the major challenges of autism is that it can impair social skills, such as turn-taking, situationally appropriate behavior, and communication. Children with autism struggle to recognize social cues and often find themselves needing a more procedural approach to complex interpersonal situations, such as chatting with friends during a playgroup. Despite your child’s many wonderful qualities, their peers may not be able to see beyond the interruptions, fidgeting, and inappropriate outbursts. This can make it hard for an autistic child to make friends, which may lead to loneliness, depression, and a sense of being unwanted.

With its focus on conditioning, ABA therapy can allow children to identify cues and rehearse appropriate responses with a patient, nonjudgmental therapist. They will learn what not to do and develop an understanding of why certain behaviors are frowned upon, which can allow them to act more appropriately around their peers. The positive rewards given by the ABA therapist will then be mirrored by their schoolmates, leading to deeper friendships and greater confidence.

A Therapist Can Assist With Key Developmental Goals

Autism often causes developmental delays, including delayed speech and trouble with the motor skills that are so important for children. Things such as writing or speaking can be assisted through ABA therapy, which utilizes repetition and reward to encourage desired behaviors. For example, if your child is struggling to write their name, a compassionate ABA therapist will help them practice the behavior until they are able to successfully complete the task.

Children Can Learn to Self-Regulate

Many children with autism struggle to self-regulate, which means managing their own emotions in a healthy way. This can lead to destructive behavior, from lashing out at others to picking at their skin. With ABA therapy, children can break these feelings down and identify how to respond to each feeling they have in a more beneficial way. For example, the therapist can help the child make the connection between certain physical sensations, like tight shoulders, and the corresponding feeling. Then, having identified what the feeling is, the therapist may practice self-soothing methods with the child, such as counting to 10 or taking deep breaths.

Modeling good behavior is a key element of ABA therapy, so the therapist may note their own emotions and demonstrate how to approach it, which both helps the child recognize other peoples’ emotions and how to respond to their own.

ABA Therapy Reduces Problem Behaviors

Being a mom means dealing with stress, even when your children are perfect. Unfortunately, autism often comes with behavioral challenges, including meltdowns and defiance. Autistic children may act out or struggle to explain their behaviors, and typical parenting skills may not always help. This can lead to struggles between parents and children, which reduces trust and damages the crucial mother-child relationship.

With ABA therapy, autistic children are given a safe space to understand what is and is not appropriate, working with a trained professional who can identify why they are doing something. By untangling the root causes and then teaching ways to reduce the undesirable behavior, the therapist will help the child understand what should and should not be done in typical situations.

Therapists Can Practice Key Life Skills

Many parents of autistic children worry that because of their child’s condition, they will never be able to enjoy the many freedoms that come with being a teenager or adult, such as going on a road trip or finding a partner. However, with early intervention, it’s entirely possible for an autistic child to become a fully independent, well-adjusted adult. ABA therapy can help with that.

Because ABA therapy focuses on breaking things down into manageable steps and then rewarding each step of the process, it is an excellent way to teach children the complex but crucial life skills they will need to become fully-fledged adults. This can include things like hygiene, meal preparation, and household chores, which sets them up for success when they are ready to leave the nest.

While autism can be a challenging diagnosis, there are many ways that parents can help their children thrive, and that includes ABA therapy. This peer-reviewed, scientifically sound method can be a true game-changer for families and, most importantly, the children affected by autism.

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