ABA Therapy for autistic children: 5 ways it can help in their development | Health

Autism is a developmental disorder that impacts the nervous system and affects the overall cognitive, emotional, social and physical health of the affected individual. It is caused due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Not all autistic people have the same symptoms but the common ones include difficulty with communication, difficulty with social interactions, obsessive interests and repetitive behaviours. Therapies, such as applied behaviour analysis (ABA), speech therapy, and occupational therapy, can help autistic children develop crucial skills, improve communication, manage behaviours, and enhance their overall quality of life by providing tailored support and interventions. Asperger’s syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, Kanner’s syndrome, and PDD-NOS are five different types of autism. (Also read | Causes for autism in children: 5 facts to understand)

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental condition that affects many children worldwide(Freepik)

What is ABA therapy?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental condition that affects many children worldwide. It presents unique challenges for children and their families but hope and progress can be found through Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) therapy.

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“Invented by Dr Ivar Lovaas in the 1960s, Applied Behaviour Analysis, or ABA therapy is a widely used approach to help children on the autism spectrum. It focuses on breaking down skills into small steps and rewarding desired behaviours – allowing autistic children to learn new communication, social, and daily living skills, as well as reducing challenging behaviours. ABA therapy is a versatile and adaptable intervention, which can be tailored to address the specific needs of each individual, ensuring a personalized approach to skill development across a plethora of social settings, fostering learning at home, school, and within the broader community,” says Dr. Meenakshi Kamble, Occupational Therapist, Surya Mother and child super speciality Hospital, Pune.

“ABA therapy is a widely recognized and evidence-based intervention that recognises the individuality of each autistic child. Therapists meticulously assess the child’s strengths, challenges, and unique needs. Then, they create a plan that focuses on specific areas needing improvement, like communication or social skills. This personalised approach ensures that interventions are precisely targeted, maximizing their effectiveness in promoting development and well-being,” says Dr. Sonam Kothari, Co-Founder and CEO of Butterfly Learnings.

5 ways ABC therapy can help autistic children

Dr Kamble and Dr Kothari explore 5 ways in which ABA therapy can play a transformative role in the development of these special individuals:

1. Skill building: ABA therapy helps in teaching new skills to children with autism, such as communication, social interaction, and daily living skills. By breaking down these skills into smaller steps and providing positive reinforcement, ABA therapy can effectively help children learn and generalize these skills in various settings.

2. Positive Reinforcement: ABA therapy uses rewards to motivate desired behaviours, helping children associate good behaviour with positive outcomes, encouraging them to repeat those actions.

3. Behaviour modification: ABA therapy targets challenging behaviours commonly seen in autistic children, such as aggression, self-injury, or repetitive behaviours. By identifying triggers and implementing strategies to replace these behaviours with more appropriate ones, ABA therapy can significantly reduce problem behaviours and improve overall functioning.

4. Reduces challenges: By focusing on positive behaviours, ABA therapy helps in reducing challenging behaviours like meltdowns or repetitive actions.

5. Social skills development: Children with autism often struggle with social skills and forming relationships with others. ABA therapy can target social deficits by teaching children how to initiate and maintain conversations, interpret non-verbal cues, and make friends, leading to improved social interactions and relationships.

6. Improve attention and social skills: ABA can improve a child’s focus and attention span as they learn to complete tasks. It also directly teaches social skills through role-playing and practicing desired behaviours in social situations.

7. Independence and self-help skills: ABA therapy focuses on teaching children with autism how to become more independent in their daily routines, such as dressing themselves, brushing their teeth, and managing personal hygiene. By breaking down these tasks into achievable steps and providing consistent reinforcement, ABA therapy can empower children to become more self-sufficient.

8. Family involvement and support: ABA therapy not only benefits the child but also provides valuable training and support to parents and caregivers. By involving families in the therapy process, parents can learn practical strategies to help their child at home, leading to a more supportive and understanding environment for the child’s development.

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