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ABA Therapy for Teenagers

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Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is an incredibly popular course of treatment for children with autism and other developmental disabilities. It’s especially valuable for its flexibility; sessions can start for children as young as two years old and take place in both clinical and home-based settings.

But is ABA effective for older children?

The answer is yes – if you go about it the right way. This article explains the basics of ABA therapy for teens, how it works, and what benefits families can expect with regular treatment.

Is It Ever Too Late to Start ABA Therapy?

No! It is never, ever too late to start ABA for teenagers – or individuals with autism of any age. The adaptive skills and coping mechanisms taught during therapy sessions can be applied during any stage of life, and history indicates this treatment to be effective for children, youth, and adults alike.

With that being said, most experts will tell you that the sooner teen autism therapy starts, the better. Young minds are naturally easier to train than those who are used to doing things a certain way.

At What Age Is ABA Therapy Most Effective?

Autism and independence have the potential to go hand in hand if addressed early, ideally between the ages of two and six. ABA therapy for young adults and teenagers is still extremely beneficial, but it requires patience as they may be set in their ways and require more effort to reinforce the principles of ABA.

What Does Autism Look Like In Teens?

Autism looks different in everyone. Regardless of age, gender, or personality, it can manifest in a variety of ways. The teen years are particularly challenging for those on the autism spectrum due to hormone changes, social pressures, and expectations for increased independence.

Teen with Autism in bed

During this time, youth may experience more intense symptoms than what they were used to during early childhood.

Common signs of autism in teens include difficulty regulating emotions, problems understanding social cues and expectations, trouble engaging in meaningful conversations while also maintaining personal space boundaries, and avoidance of eye contact or direct interaction with others.

Sensory issues in teens with Autism can range from being overwhelmed by loud noises or bright lights, to having an unusually high sensitivity to certain textures. Teens on the spectrum with sensory processing disorder often have a hard time in crowded settings as they are easily overstimulated.

Emotionally, teens on the Autism spectrum can struggle with expressing themselves and understanding their own emotions as well as those of others. This can lead to bouts of sadness or depression, feelings of isolation, and low self-esteem.

Benefits of ABA Therapy for Teenagers 

Teens and parents can realistically set many goals for ABA therapy with a high chance of success. ABA therapy for teens is very effective when administered by a qualified professional and adhered to on an ongoing basis. We’ve listed a few of the most exciting benefits below.

Building Adaptive Skills

Adaptive skills are defined as a person’s ability to interact with and learn from the world around them. ABA therapy for teens helps youth work on fundamental coping strategies, problem-solving skills, and self-care practices as they begin to transition into adulthood.

Improving Communication Skills

As the basis of all human interaction, communication is essential to any teen’s success in the outside world. ABA therapy clarifies the added confusion kids on the spectrum may have when engaging in conversations, helping them understand body language, sarcasm, and facial expressions.

Developing Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Emotional tantrums and aggressive behavior are two natural realities that come with processing life on the spectrum. ABA therapy provides an opportunity for teenagers to develop the skills necessary to recognize their emotions and learn coping mechanisms that reduce negative outcomes

Increasing Social Skills

One of many common goals for ABA therapy amongst teens, social aptitude is a skill that can take years to develop. Proper conversation techniques, emotional regulation, and appropriate body language are just a few of the areas that this type of therapy can help teenagers with. 

Enhancing Independence 

Regardless of what an ill-informed person may tell you, Autism and independence can indeed go hand in hand. Most teenagers on the spectrum already possess a certain level of independence, and therapy can take it to the next level with one-on-one practice.

What Does ABA Therapy Look Like for Teens?

Teen in ABA therapy

ABA therapy for teens typically focuses on developing the competencies youth need most during this tumultuous time of their lives. As outlined in the previous section, this includes adaptive skills, coping mechanisms, and social interaction. 

But just like signs of Autism in teens can vary from person to person, so can an ABA teen therapy session. Therapists start by assessing the child they’re working with to build a baseline of skills, needs, and objectives. From there they develop individualized goals and interventions that work for the teen specifically.

Examples of activities in an ABA session can include communication practice with peers, role-playing simulations to build confidence in social situations, and the use of positive reinforcement. While these activities may look different from one teen to another, they all work together with the same goal in mind: empowering teens on the autism spectrum to reach their full potential.

ABA Therapy at Heartlinks

There’s no handbook for parenting, and no one-size-fits-all approach to Autism, either. With that being said, ABA therapy can be an incredibly effective tool for parents of older children, teens, and adults of all placements on the spectrum.

Heartlinks has had the privilege of seeing the transformative effect of ABA on teenagers firsthand. We proudly offer accessible treatment options to families in locations across America, giving our clients every opportunity to find the path that works best for them.

If you’re interested in learning more about ABA therapy for teens, don’t hesitate to reach out and connect with one of Heartlinks’ knowledgeable staff members. We’re here to help you explore the possibilities and give your child the chance for a better future – regardless of age or diagnosis. Get started today!

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