Over the past two decades, autism has grown from a seemingly rare disorder to something verging on an epidemic. The truth of the matter is that, through improvements in diagnosis and increased understanding of the disorder, previously undiagnosed cases of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are being recognized and treated.
Currently, the Center for Disease Control estimates that 1 in every 59 children in the United States qualifies for an autism diagnosis or is “on the spectrum”, as is commonly said. Although the gender disparity has narrowed, ASD diagnoses are approximately four times (4x) more likely in boys compared to girls. Despite autism being a lifelong condition, there is still no reliable estimate of the number of adults who currently live with autism. So what is Applied Behavioral Analysis? In one word, hope.
What is Autism?
Before we dig further into the question “What is Applied Behavioral Analysis,” we should know what autism is. Autism Speaks, a leading organization for the promotion of autism research and education, defines autism as “a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication.”
There is no single type of autism, nor is there a universal cause. Autism, it’s believed, is brought about by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Also, it can range in severity from almost undetectable to nearly debilitating. Some of the common indicators that present in children ultimately diagnosed with ASD include:
- Avoiding eye contact
- Difficulty understanding others’ feelings
- Aversion to physical contact with others
- Unawareness of being spoken to
- Inability to interact with other people
- Repetition of certain words or phrases
- Repetition of certain actions
- Difficulty with change in routine
- Hypersensitivity to sensory input
There are numerous other potential signs that suggest a child could be on the ASD spectrum. Given the combination of symptoms and their intensity can vary wildly from one child to another, it’s no wonder autism eluded categorization for so long.
What is Applied Behavioral Analysis?
Despite ASD’s ambiguous nature, there is a treatment proven to provide positive results for those who are affected by the symptoms. Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) focuses on the relationship between learning and behavior. Although there are other forms of treatment, only Applied Behavior Analysis has scientific evidence to back up its efficacy. This fact cannot be emphasized enough.
In the most basic sense, ABA encourages children diagnosed with autism to pursue positive outcomes and avoid negative ones by applying known scientific principles, particularly positive reinforcement. In more specific terms, ABA improves a child’s social behavior by:
- Increasing positive behaviors
- Reducing counter-productive behaviors
- Managing self-control
- Teaching new skills
- Transferring skills from one situation to another
- Controlling the learning environment
A therapist working with a child could suggest a positive behavior, like following a basic verbal command like, “Please put away your computer.” If the child responds positively, he will receive a reward, such as praise or time outside on the playground. If the child responds negatively, there is no reward.
Based on B.F. Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning, ABA has been practiced since the 1960s and proven effective in numerous studies. If you’re still wondering what is behavioral analysis, Autism Speaks provides more detail here.
Support for Autism
You should ask, “What is Applied Behavior Analysis?”, you’ve taken a big leap toward getting the support you need for your child. Ascend Autism is here to help. We provide a safe, family-friendly environment for ABA treatment, and focus on the success of each child (and family!) we treat. If you’d like more information about our autism treatment programs, please call us at 877.323.8668.