What is ABA Therapy?
If you have a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis, likely one of the first things that your diagnosing provider discussed with you is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. But what exactly is ABA? Simply put, ABA is the application of the science of why we do what we do. Scientists have spent decades learning about behavior: what makes behavior occur, what makes it stop, how the environment affects behavior, etc. With ABA, we apply all of that knowledge to make socially significant behavior change that help people access reinforcement (preferred items, positive social interactions, etc.) more often.
Compared to other therapies, ABA is a relatively new field. ABA was not widely practiced until the 1970s; however, over the last 50 years, we have experienced tremendous growth. With this growth has come a multitude of opportunities to reach those who can benefit from behavior analytic interventions. When talking about behavior, we simply mean anything that an individual says, does, or thinks. The interventions we use are how we manipulate the environment and ways that individuals access reinforcement to increase their opportunities to get reinforced in their environment. In doing this, we are able to decrease distress behaviors that serve to signal a need that has gone unmet through providing the individual with the resources to get their needs met in an easier way.
ABA is most commonly used as a way to help individuals with autism learn to interact with their environment in a way that will help them increase their independence and satisfaction in life; however, ABA can be applied to organizational management, pets, and even yourself!
The Foxhole Approach to ABA
With ABA being a relatively new field, it is constantly evolving. At Foxhole Therapies, we work to be at the forefront of this evolution by taking a progressive approach to ABA. This approach is client-centered, flexible, and compassionate. We recognize the power we have to change the lives of those we serve in a meaningful way, and we take that responsibility very seriously. At Foxhole, it is important to us to give our client’s as much autonomy over their sessions as possible. With an autism diagnosis often comes decreased autonomy and an increase in adults making life-altering decisions for you. We aim to give some of that autonomy back by including our client’s in their treatment process in a way that allows them to make as many choices about their care as possible.
At Foxhole, it is important to us to celebrate the qualities that make our clients unique rather than trying to change these qualities. While our field has made great strides, we are aware that there is still room for continued improvement. In recent years, the term compassionate ABA has been coined to describe this new approach to ABA. One definition of compassion that I have held to in my time as a practitioner is “recognizing what others are feeling then acting on that feeling to alleviate their hardships.” Similarly, compassionate ABA puts the perspective of the client first, meets them where they are, and assists them in guiding the path of their intervention. It emphasizes consent, positive reinforcement, decreasing barriers, and increasing opportunities to access the things that make someone happy. When we work with clients, we recognize that the true experts on the client are the client themselves and their family. Our belief is that our role is to help guide families and clients to their greatest potential without forcing them to meet milestones that may not have any relevance to their lives. This is not to say that we will ever be complacent with their progress, but we will not waste valuable time on goals that are not going to help the client and their families reach their ultimate goals.
Another important aspect mentioned above is consent. Ensuring that we always have informed consent from stakeholders in our interventions and consistent consent from the clients themselves is how we can avoid the mistakes of our predecessors in the field. Behavior analytic therapy is a vulnerable space, and the very least we can do is ensure that our clients feel safe, supported, and comfortable with the changes we are working towards. By emphasizing consent and reinforcement rather than coercion and punishment, we can make engaging in the behaviors that will help the clients achieve their goals more reinforcing than the alternative distress behaviors.
ABA Therapy for Autism | Grapevine, Texas
Foxhole Therapies is located in Grapevine, Texas. Foxhole is led by Dr. Reagan Cox, PhD, BCBA and provides ABA therapy to children of all ages with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Contact Foxhole Therapies today to learn more about the services we provide or to be started with an assessment for your child. We’re in this together!