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ABA Therapy Techniques You Can Use At Home

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It’s no secret that living with Autism is hard. Children are especially daunted by the world around them as they begin to learn how to interact, behave, and develop social skills. However, with the help of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, many kids have seen their lives vastly improve.

This historically effective approach is proven to make a difference in everything from aggressive behavior to sensory processing disorder. It’s even more impactful when brought outside of the clinical setting and practiced at home. Read below as we delve into what ABA autism therapy at home can look like and how you can use it to help your child grow.

What is ABA Therapy?

ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy is an evidence-based therapeutic intervention used to help individuals with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities make meaningful changes in their everyday habits. This treatment form focuses on teaching new skills, improving existing ones, and decreasing harmful behaviors in order to improve overall functioning and increase quality of life. It’s particularly valuable for young children with autism, who are just beginning to establish healthy patterns.

How Does ABA Therapy Work?

ABA therapy can take many forms, from discrete trial training (DTT) and natural environment teaching (NET), to picture exchange communication systems (PECS) and verbal behavior intervention (VBI). Each method is tailored to the individual child’s needs and used alongside various reinforcement strategies, prompting procedures, modeling techniques, and self-management training methods that motivate and promote progress.

Happy child in ABA therapy

ABA therapy should always be led by a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA). The BCBA is responsible for creating an individualized treatment plan, assessing progress, and making changes as needed. Depending on the needs of the child receiving ABA therapy, a team approach may also be used to provide additional support. This may include teachers, therapists, and parents.

The principles of operant and classical conditioning are best taught in a clinical, controlled setting. Privacy allows children and therapists to focus on programming without disruption from the outside world. ABA therapy typically involves one-on-one instruction; however, the skills learned in individual sessions can be transferred to other environments.

Can Parents Do ABA Therapy at Home?

Yes! In fact, most behavior specialists encourage parents to bring the concepts they teach in the office home for regular practice. Shaping in ABA, prompting in ABA, discrete trial training, token economy, and so much more can be integrated into everyday routines. There’s nothing wrong with needing to take some ABA parent training yourself in order to fully grasp these concepts and understand how they can best be used in your home environment.

Six ABA Therapy Techniques Parents Can Do At Home

How can parents do ABA therapy at home? More ways than one! ABA therapy at home by parents can focus on a variety of techniques, including:

1. Using Modeling to Improve Behavior

Modeling is one of the most important ABA strategies for parents to know and use at home. It can help children learn important skills such as emotional mastery, self-control, problem-solving, and communication.

When using modeling, parents should demonstrate the behavior that they would like their child to emulate. This is often done by talking through and showing how they are demonstrating the desired behavior in a step-by-step fashion. For instance, if you want your child to learn how to share, you could show them specialist-informed ABA therapy examples of what it looks like when two people are playing with a toy together.

Mother giving her daughter a high five

2. Practicing Positive Reinforcement

Effective ABA therapy at home starts and ends with positive reinforcement. This key principle argues that rewards and praise are more effective than punishment and criticism when trying to instill desired behaviors in children with autism. It is important to use positive reinforcement throughout all of your ABA sessions, but also in day-to-day life with the person receiving therapy.

Positive reinforcement can look like many different things. For example, verbal praise and physical affection can both be used to reward desired behaviors. You may also provide tangible rewards such as small treats or toys when your child does something right.

3. Implementing a Token Economy 

In the context of ABA therapy strategies, ‘token economy’ refers to a set of procedures in which tangible items are earned through positive behavior and exchanged for other desirable activities or objects. In essence, it creates an economy within the therapeutic environment that rewards children with tokens (e.g., stickers, chips) when they demonstrate desirable behaviors.

The goal of a token economy is to reinforce positive behavior with something that has immediate and tangible value, thus strengthening the likelihood that the child will repeat it in the future. Implementing this alongside other ABA therapy techniques at home is crucial to showing positive actions are consistently valuable in non-clinical environments.

4. Establishing a Routine and Maintaining Rules

All individuals, whether they live on the spectrum or not, benefit from having a daily routine. Children with autism tend to really thrive with one, as it establishes predictability in everyday life.

Above all, it is important to establish clear rules and expectations for your child. Make sure that the rules are age-appropriate and not too complex. It’s also best to remain consistent with any rewards or consequences for following those same rules, so your child knows what they can expect from themselves and others.

5. Giving Prompts to Build New Skills

Prompts are an important part of teaching new skills to children with autism. Prompting can be verbal, physical, or visual. Verbal prompts include any spoken words that remind the child what they need to do (“Please sit down”). Physical prompts are physical actions that guide the child through a task, such as placing their hands on an object and helping them move it. Visual prompts are either photos or drawings of a desired action (like sitting in their chair) to prompt the child to do it.

6. Provide Visual Supports for Your Child

Visual supports are an important way to help children with autism stay on task and understand what is expected of them. Visual supports can look like all kinds of things, from chart-like calendars and schedules to pictures, diagrams, or videos.

Quick ABA Therapy Tips

With the above ABA therapy techniques explained, it’s worth highlighting a few tips that can make implementing them easier.

Our best advice?

  • Start small: breaking down large tasks into smaller parts is essential. Pick just one or two skills to begin with, such as learning colors or using the potty independently.
  • Be consistent: It is important to note that ABA therapy is not a one-time event. It requires ongoing practice and reinforcement to be successful.
  • Stay realistic: Practicing ABA therapy techniques at home isn’t always straightforward. Be prepared to deal with potential tantrums and frustration.
  • Remain patient: It may take some time before you see results. Don’t get discouraged!

Get More Help from Heartlinks ABA

Don’t know how to start ABA therapy at home? Heartlinks can help. Supporting the administration of ABA therapy at home by parents and offering a broad selection of professional services to locations across America, our team is dedicated to helping you create a safe and stimulating environment for your child. Reach out to learn more about the opportunities available to them today. 

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