What is ABA?

Applied Behavior Analysis

ABA is Applied Behavior Analysis, the study of human and animal behavior. ABA focuses on improving socially significant behaviors. ABA has a large research base and its methods have been proven to improve positive behaviors for its clients. ABA has been recognized as the most effective treatment for autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disorders.  

A for Applied

“Applied” means practice, rather than research or philosophy. When we take the research principles that have been proven to work and use those strategies to help our clients improve their lives, we are applying those principles and strategies in meaningful ways.

B for Behavior

Behavior in ABA stands for anything that a living organism, human or animal, does that can be observed by others.  So often we think of behavior and associate negative behaviors with that term.  When we say “behavior” in ABA, we can be discussing negative or difficult behaviors, like tantrums, yelling, swearing, stealing, but we can also be focusing on positive behaviors, like sharing, talking, waving good-bye, making a purchase.  Each of these are things an outsider can observe happening.  If we can see it, then we can take data on it. 

It may seem odd to use the word “behavior” when talking about learning to talk, play, and live as a complex social animal, but to a behavior analyst all these can be taught, as long as there are intact brain functions to learn and practice the skills. 

A for Analysis

Analysis means that we are a science, we use data to make our decisions, and we do this continually as we work with you.  When we work with your child we will take data, review the data for trends (increases, decreases, stability, or instability), and make decisions that are based on the data we observe. Most BCBAs love data.  We love looking at graphs and making data-based decisions that will help your child to learn more.

Put it all together and what you have is ABA.  ABA is about teaching our clients to learn new skills, replace behaviors of concern with more socially appropriate behaviors, and focusing on improving and increasing behaviors that will be meaningful to the client and society.

Why does my child need ABA?

Most typically developing children learn without our intervention–the world around them provides the right conditions to learn language, play, and social skills. Children learn a lot from their natural environment. Children with autism may learn less easily from the natural environment. While they have the potential to learn, depending on the child and their specific individual needs, it might take a more structured environment or a blend of structure and natural environment, for learning to occur, an environment where conditions are optimized for acquiring the same skills that typical children learn “naturally.” ABA is all about how to set up the environment to enable our kids to learn.

ABA is endorsed by U.S. Surgeon General and CDC

ABA has been endorsed by a number of state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Surgeon General and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as an effective therapy for children and adults with autism spectrum disorder.

United States Surgeon General David Satcher, MD, PhD, has endorsed intensive behavioral intervention for individuals with autism. Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General states, “Thirty years of research demonstrated the efficacy of applied behavioral methods in reducing inappropriate behavior and in increasing communication, learning, and appropriate social behavior.”

The report is available on the Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General and also ordered by 1-877-9MHealth, or by writing to Mental Health, Pueblo, CO 81009.

Additional Organizations that Endorse ABA

The following organizations endorse ABA as a scientifically proven approach for treating children with autism and related disorders:

If you would like to learn more about ABA, here are some helpful resources:

Autism Speaks- Applied Behavior Analysis

BACB- PRACTICE GUIDELINES FOR ASD

If you want to learn more about GBC aba and our ABA services, please to go our website and fill out our interest form or email us at info@gbcaba.com.

Our ABA Journey- Viewpoint from an Autism Mom and ABA Therapist

Blog 1:

I am a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and a mom of an autistic daughter.  I wear “two hats” as they say.  Sometimes I forget to take one hat off, before putting the other one on. Life can get so busy, emotional, and hectic.

My Job and Autism

Prior to having my daughter, I was a BCBA and worked as a behavior technician for 7 years. Before that I was a special education teacher for 5 years.  I have worked with children and adults on the spectrum since I was 17 years old (20+ years).

Working for ABA companies, I travel back and forth to client’s homes, school settings, and community settings, work long hours and late nights.  I love what I do, I especially love working at @GBCaba.  Every day I get the privilege to help clients with autism and their families, to help transform lives.

My Baby and Autism

Then, my daughter was born and I became a mom.  I began working at GBC aba, as a BCBA, the same year.  Work was great. My baby was healthy and I loved being a mom.  Things were going well, until they weren’t.

I didn’t know if I was paranoid or if it really was happening to me.  So many of the things I saw in my clients, I started seeing in my little girl.  I just had this feeling she had autism.  I enrolled her in early intervention, as soon as possible.  We had 5 different therapists coming to our home each week for one hour at a time, but it wasn’t enough.  Every month another milestone passed us by and my daughter’s delays were becoming bigger and bigger.

I took her to be evaluated for autism at 2 years old, but was told not yet.  I was livid and felt like the diagnostician was wrong!  I knew it… my daughter had autism.  Every minute without the formal diagnosis was another minute without ABA therapy.  The diagnostician wanted us to do further testing, we did what the diagnostician recommended.  One year later, after seeing countless specialists and going through other tests, she was diagnosed with autism, a heart defect, and a rare genetic condition.  Finally, she could receive ABA therapy to get her the help she needed!

You might ask, why didn’t you do it if you are a BCBA… more on this later, but the big answer is she is my daughter and even though I teach her daily, it is different! Being a mom is what she needs me to be.  I need other people in our lives, so I can be her mom.

Autism and ABA

I signed her up immediately for ABA therapy and waited for services to start.  We toured several agencies and interviewed them all.  To be honest, it was kind of weird being on that side of it.  For years, I was the one interviewing families.  In fact, I still do.  I was afraid the ABA companies would think of me as a competitor trying to steal secrets and gather Intel and not as a mom looking for help. In fact, one company did! After seeing my title and credentials (BCBA) in my email, they told me never to contact them again.  I was hurt.  I was just a mom looking for someone to help my baby.

Waitlists and Turnover

It took forever for services to start.  We were on waitlists, which many of you know is common with ABA companies.  I finally chose one company.  They did an assessment, but then we waited 3 months for staff and there was no word when they would start.

I couldn’t wait anymore, so we left that company and started at another one.  About one month after the assessment, we finally started with a team.  I was thrilled and hopeful.  My daughter would finally get some help! Then 3 months later, the BCBA left the company and so did all 3 of her technicians.  This was our first experience with turnover and it was massive.  This meant we had to start all over again with a new team!

The company was quick to find another BCBA and 3 more technicians.  Then 3 months later, that BCBA left the company and so did 2 of those technicians.  At this point, it just didn’t feel right to stick it through with the same company.  If the staff didn’t have company loyalty, why would we?

So after this round of turnover, we left this company too.  I’ve seen turnover before, as a professional, but never to this extent. I also hadn’t been on the parent side of things before.  It has been extremely frustrating and disheartening.  My daughter needs consistency and deserves the best.

Progress and Celebrating the Small Steps

GBC aba is a new company, new team, and I’m growing with them as a mother and a specialist.  I am once again hopeful because my daughter likes her technicians and the BCBA is a great fit for our family.  The best news is my daughter is starting to make progress!  She attempted to say “movie”, she can now turn on the bathroom lights, she is walking next to the cart at the store, she is eating with a spoon and is starting to learn how to use her AAC device to communicate! These may seem like small achievements to some, but to us they are huge! Every small step is one step closer to a better future for my daughter.  One step closer to more independence and a transformed life.  All this is possible because of #ABA.

Top 5 Outdoor Activities for Children with Autism

Here are the top 5 outdoor activities you can do with your whole family before summer ends with some tips on how to help your child with Autism be successful and have fun!

#5 Theme Parks

While theme parks are expensive, loud, and often over-crowded this time of year, an instant cocktail for sensory overload, there are ways your child with Autism can enjoy and have fun, too!  Call your local theme park or look on their website to see if they offer disability waivers, passes, or other accommodations.  Many theme parks (e.g. @Disneyland, @WaltDisneyWorld, @SixFlags) now are more accessible by offering accommodations like low wait times, front of the line passes, quiet hours, quiet rooms, diet or allergy-friendly menus, or allowing strollers to be used like wheelchairs.  While you do not need to tell the park your child’s specific disability, this would be a violation of Americans with Disabilities Act (#ADA), you might need a doctor’s note stating they require accommodations.  Do your homework before arriving at the park, so you are prepared.

When at the park watch your child and be sensitive to their needs.  Be prepared with favorite snacks, calming or soothing items (favorite blankets, toys, fidgets), noise cancelling head phones, iPad or tablets, and other favorite activities they can use while waiting in lines. When your child seems, overwhelmed, find a corner or quiet, less crowded area to allow them to recompose themselves, then return to the fun.

#4 Backyard Fun

Summer is a great time to break out the pop-up pools, sprinklers, water tables and sand tables.  All those kinetic sand, bubbles, goo and slime kits that your child got throughout the year are great to play with outdoors.  Less mess for you to clean up and fun for them! If you have room, you can set up a trampoline, swings, or hammocks.

If you have a runner/wanderer, keep a close eye on your child, stay within an arm’s reach, or try to schedule outdoor fun when your #ABA behavior technician or therapist is with you. This is a great time to practice those safety instructions: wait, come here, stop, stay in the boundaries.  If you don’t have a fence, set up cones or barriers for your child to know how far they can travel before they need to ask permission to leave the area.

#3 Splash Pads or Spray Parks

There are often some great local splash pads that are free or inexpensive to enjoy! You can search your county for local splash pads and spray parks.  Most are open through Memorial Day weekend. Your kids can get soaked by standing under the water towers, spray cannons, or buckets.  Come prepared with towels, swimsuits, sunscreen, and water shoes.  Most will allow you to bring outside toys for water play. water at most splash pads and spray parks are usually only 1-2 ft. deep. Splash around, cool off and enjoy the sun!

#2 Playgrounds

Local parks and playgrounds are great this time of year! Especially when you are needing to get out of the house, but don’t want to spend a lot of money. While there, you can practice the safety skills mentioned above, communication or social skills goals your child may have.  Your children can get their energy out, be social and have fun.

#1 Pools:

This is my favorite, both as an Autism mom and therapist!  Both private and public pools are a wonderful way to enjoy the summer sun, stay cool and have fun! It is so easy to spend hours in the pool! It seems like most children and adults with autism love the water.

While we love to watch our children having fun, we also have to be extra cautious around water.  Drowning is the leading cause of death for kids with ASD, this may be due to the tendency for children with autism to wander off and when they wander, they are drawn to water.  Check out these water safety tips to be prepared.  Ask your local pool if they offer private swim lessons or group lessons for children with special needs.  Many special recreation associations also offer swimming lessons.  Do your research, be prepared, but most of all have fun!

Last Days of Summer

Before you pack your kids to get on the bus for the first day of school this fall, take advantage of some of these ideas with the last few days of summer!