So you’ve completed the initial intake and initial assessment of your child, and now your Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) has a list of goals for your child to work on during therapy. But how were these goals chosen? It can be difficult to navigate through the world of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and child development to figure out what is higher priority for each child. Your child’s ABA program and goals are going to be completely individualized for your child and based off an appropriate assessment for their age and functioning level. Although there is more to consider when creating an appropriate program, these will be the top priorities in any ABA program.
Priority #1: Behavior Reduction
Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence (ABC) data will be taken during each session, along with frequency and duration of problem behaviors. ABC data tells you what occurred prior to the behavior occurring, what the exact behavior the child engaged in, and what happened immediately following the behavior. This helps to determine the function of the child’s behavior and also help to guide the treatment of the challenging behaviors. It is important to address these behaviors now when your child is much smaller, than to have to address it when they are older, taller, and stronger.
Essential Skills Every Child Needs:
1.Being able to accept being told No
2.Having an item removed taken away
3.Ability to smoothly transition (i.e. without problem behavior) from locations or activities
4.Waiting for an item or activity
5.Sharing & Taking Turns
The essential skills that every child need are extremely important. If your child isn’t able to do some of these skills, then they have barriers to learning. Once your child has these skills, they are much more available for learning and will learn skills much more quickly.
Priority #2: Communication
Think about all of the vocal and nonvocal behavior that you engage in on a daily basis. There is a lot! We are constantly requesting items or activities (mands), labeling items within our environment (tacting), following directions (listener responding), and engaging in conversation (intraverbals). Most children with Autism have a deficit in this area, as they learn language differently. Your child’s ABA therapy sessions will spend the majority of their Natural Environment Training working on Manding. One of the most important skills for your child to have is to be able to effectively get their basic needs and wants met. Bonus: effective communication will help to reduce problem behaviors!
Priority #3: Effective Reinforcers
THINK: Money! As adults, we go to work and perform our job duties in order to receive our paycheck at the end of a two week period. This money is then used to buy things that we enjoy and need: food, entertainment, shelter, vacations, etc. If you didn’t receive your paycheck after you put in all this work, would you continue to work for that company? Of course not!
The same thing applies to your child. If they don’t get something out of communicating, following directions, etc., would they continue to respond? No, they wouldn’t. Therefore, it is extremely important that your child have effective reinforcers. Sometimes it can be hard to determine what your child finds reinforcing as they might have a limited selection of preferred toys or edibles. Therefore, an effective ABA program will work on increasing your child’s reinforcers so they can have a more enjoyable life and also increase the likelihood of learning new skills, communicating, and following directions.
McGreevy, P., Fry, T., & Cornwall, C. (2012). Essential for Living. Winter Park, FL: Patrick McGreevy, Ph.D., P.A. and Associates.