If you are a parent of a child with Autism, you have heard about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) at some point- either while researching on the internet or from a medical professional. So, today, let’s share the etymology and contemporary issues of ABA.
Behavior Analysis has seen an exponential growth in the past three decades due to all the research done in the field. In the early 1960’s Ivar Lovaas pioneered applied behavior analysis for children on the autism spectrum to decrease challenging behaviors and focused on the importance of communication. His research and studies were based on principles of learning and behaviour given by B.F.Skinner through various publications like Behavior of Organisms, Walden Two, Science and Human Behavior.
Lovaas conducted a study where children received 40 hours a week of intensive behavioral therapies using his methods and theories for two to six years. The results were striking. More than 90% of children that received ABA had significant improvements in symptoms, including socialization, and had significant cognitive improvements. After the results of this study were published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, there were many such studies done to replicate what was achieved by Ivar Lovaas.
This experiment was pivotal for the field of applied behavior analysis especially for young children with behavioral and learning disorders.
Once the positive effects of applying these principles were studied in depth, many researchers applied the same principles in various other settings- psychiatric, geriatric, organizational behavior management, education, sports, animal training and every other field that involved learning and changing behavior.
Learning and changing behavior means developing a new way of living. Just like we develop habits- it takes time and consistent effort. Have you tried learning a language by investing only two hours a week? How long do you think it will take you to be proficient in that language?
Research indicates that two or even five hours of ABA therapy a week is not effective. Many factors play a role in deciding the duration of therapy- cost, availability of therapists, travel time, engagement from the child (motivation, hunger, sleep). To achieve anywhere close to the 40 hours of therapy, practitioners are encouraging parent training as a method of Applied Behavior Analysis. Enabling parents can make ABA effective and affordable. The child receives high quality, consistent therapeutic support right in his natural environment.
There are more benefits to parent training in ABA, but I will leave that for another post.