Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Is "A.B.A."?
Applied Behavior Analysis is a science which is within the field of Psychology. A.B.A. investigates behaviors and what precedes them, as well as how behaviors are a function of their consequences. For example, the behavior of putting money into a drink machine is frequently followed by getting a drink. When a drink machine repeatedly takes your money, your behavior of going to that machine is less likely to happen in the future. A.B.A. is used with a huge variety of populations, ranging from couples seeking help with relationships, to drug addicts in rehabilitation or businesses wishing to improve employee productivity. W.N.C. B.E.S.T. specializes in using these principles to treat children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
How Is "A.B.A." Used With Children With Autism?
Applied Behavior Analysis is used to help children with Autism learn behaviors such as talking, behaving appropriately, learning language and even motor skills. For example, if a child is hitting his Mother in order to get attention, you would no longer give attention for that behavior, and expect to see it decrease. Likewise, you would teach the child to get attention by either holding his Mom’s hand, tapping her arm, or saying, ‘Mom’ nicely. These behaviors would work to get attention, and when reinforced, you would expect to see more of them.
If a child were not talking, ABA would work to teach the child to imitate sounds from an adult, and then work (diligently!) to reinforce the child for making sounds. These sounds are then linked together to form words (which, again, are diligently reinforced).
A child may have significant or mild delays, but the idea is to try to teach the most important skills while they are young so that they can learn from the least intrusive environment possible in the future. For example, a child with Asperger’s may be very smart, but a delay with fine motor skills may impair their ability to do his worksheet in school fast enough to keep up with the rest of the class. In time, that very smart child is likely to fall behind his peers with overall performance. A child who is not talking at age 3 might be very socially motivated, but until they learn to talk they will have difficulty telling their peers what they want or do not want to do. This child, if he does not learn to talk, may engage in tantrums when his peer takes a toy, but verbal behavior could instead yield a firm, ‘Stop!’ instead of a tantrum.
How Does "A.B.A." Work To Help My Child Make As Many Gains As He Can?
Intensity. Just as you would have more difficulty learning to speak a new language if you only practiced a couple of hours a week, a child with delays will have more difficulty learning in a couple of hours versus 20 to 40 hours a week. W.N.C. B.E.S.T. sets up home programs, which are run by the family and consultant, in order to achieve this high number of hours of intervention. We welcome input from teachers, speech therapists, and other professionals who seek the best outcome for your child. We train tutors that the family hires (usually college students or relatives) as well as the family members to use principles of behavior analysis to shape behaviors. Tutors come to your house to work with your child for the recommended number of hours, and the team (tutors and family) meet with the consultant regularly to update the program and receive additional training. Tutors and family are asked to take data on behaviors which are being targeted, and as soon as a child masters skills, new ones are introduced. A typical home program works on teaching behaviors in the following categories: receptive language, expressive language, social skills, fine and gross motor skills, and self-help skills.
An example of teaching social skills would be teaching a 3 year old child to say, ‘Stack em!’ to his peer who would helps stack blocks which they both run into to knock down. Another example might be teaching a 2 year old to point and look at his peer who then gives him some shaving cream.
Isn't Running A Home Program Overwhelming?
Yes. Intensive intervention is just that. Intensive! Most families report that getting started is stressful, but that once they have started they feel relieved at knowing their child is getting the only scientifically effective treatment (reviewed and published by psychologists) available. Likewise, since your family selects tutors (and occasionally fires them!) you have control with who is coming into your home and you also have supervision of the intervention with your child.
Running a home program takes a bit of organization, but if you are not so good at organizing, we are happy to help you or train a tutor to help keep materials and data organized. The parent, however, is responsible for scheduling tutors and peer play dates, but once a schedule is set, it usually does not change for a while. Please look at the program evaluation form we have and read through what is required to run an effective home program.
How Does One Fund This Type Of Intervention?
Some counties fund home programs in part with school dollars based on the federal mandate for free and appropriate education. However, if the school system where you live already has an ‘appropriate’ treatment in place, they are unlikely to give you the money for the option you select. Some families have community assistance funds, such as ‘CAP’ workers for their child, and these people can be trained in the principles of applied behavior analysis by a consultant, thereby eliminating costs of tutors. Unfortunately, most families pay for this intervention ‘out of pocket’, which can cost from $15, 000 to $40,000 a year.
How Long Does This Treatment Take?
W.N.C. B.E.S.T. works with families for an average of two years. Our objective is to help children make as many gains as possible in a short period of time, but also to teach parents how to manage and teach new behaviors without the regular help of a consultant.
How Do I Know If This Is Right For My Child?
W.N.C. B.E.S.T. believes that the parent is the true expert on their child. We suggest you go see a family who is working with us and watch a session being run by a trained tutor, and see if you like it or can imaging your child doing this. Likewise, a consultant will come to your home, for free, and meet with you and your child for a couple of hours to talk about how a home program might look based on your child’s skills and needs. Likewise, we will give you names and numbers of parents doing A.B.A. who have agreed to talk with those considering a home program so you can get their perspective.
If I Think I Want To Do This, How Do I Get Started?
Email from the link provided on this website, and we will give you a call! Or, call us at (828)778-2378. Our business is located in Asheville, North Carolina, and we serve surrounding counties in Western North Carolina.
Where Can I Find Legal Information?
WrightsLaw is a good source to find accurate, reliable information about special education law, education law, and advocacy for children with disabilities.