Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) is the leading scientific method that helps patients with autism to overcome their condition. In order to improve their condition, ABA specialists focus on a system of reward, which guarantees positive actions like speech, social activity and life skill improvements. This works mostly with children as they are more likely to absorb and accept new challenges; This is commonly referred to as “positive reinforcement” in the literature and has become one of the leading directions for treatment. ABA therapy was devised and implemented by Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas at UCLA in 1987. Since then, ABA therapy has become a leading branch of psychology – behaviorism.
How does ABA work?
Since autistic children have low capacity of absorption, tasks are broken down into different areas, and then children focus on each of them separately through an approach known as discrete trial training (DTT). This method allows autistic children to learn tasks like persistent eye contact, fine and gross motor skills, academies, conversation ability, self help and others. The process usually starts with the most basic skills and moves on towards more complicated ones as the child developments.
In recent years, there has been a new approach to DTT, which focuses on a reward system. Basically, the child is always awarded, no matter how small a progress he / she made. If a child does not complete a task, the therapist will then guide him / her towards the correct answer. After a while, this makes the child learn on his / her own, without the help from a therapist. This is referred to as “errorless learning” in the literature and is widely accepted as one of the best methods for teaching autistic children.
Applied Verbal Behavior (VB) is a recent development within applied behavioral science. As the name implies, it focuses primarily of speech reinforcement, but some other skills are involved as well. This branch of behavioral science bases its efforts on the work of Dr. F. Skinner, who devised a division of speech in 1957. According to Dr. F. Skinner, there are several forms of verbal behavior – mands (requests), echoes (verbal imitations), tacts (labels) and intraverbals (conversational responses). Each of these forms has a specific nature, and VB tries to convey this to autistic children. The aim of VB is to teach autistic children the value of speech, and instruct them how to use it properly. Instead of simply labeling things (“this is a car”) they are taught how to integrate their knowledge into everyday communication and social interaction. This type of therapy allows them integrate into society.