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The Revolution of Naturalistic ABA Therapy

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Learning a skill in a therapy room or clinical setting is one thing. Yet it is quite another when you learn the same skill in its natural environment. 

This is the difference between ABA therapy and naturalistic teaching ABA.  

As an extension of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis), naturalistic teaching is considered a more holistic and adaptive therapy. 

At Heartlinks, we use naturalistic teaching methods to support children with autism in developing the adaptive skills required to be successful in their daily lives.

Then when we combine traditional ABA therapy with naturalistic teaching, we find children have more opportunities to apply their newly acquired abilities to their daily routines. The result is more chances for independence and autonomy. 

Welcome to the world of naturalistic ABA therapy at Heartlinks 

ABA Therapist Coloring With a Child With Autism On the Floor

What is naturalistic ABA therapy?

Simply put, naturalistic teaching or natural environment teaching (NET) is focused on learning through play. Yet, there are many other components to this unique type of therapy.

Though it shares many principles with traditional ABA therapy, naturalistic teaching ABA considers the child and their natural environment. It differs from ABA therapy because of its ability to focus on the unique experiences of children with autism.

Naturalistic teaching is designed to fit seamlessly into the daily activities of a child with autism. Skills, including getting dressed or feeding themselves, dictate how the ABA therapist will work with them. Doing so allows therapists to target behavior associated with these activities. 

What is an example of naturalist ABA therapy?

A child with Autism Spectrum Disorder is struggling to communicate what clothes they want to wear. They might only want to wear certain clothes at school and change them once they get home. But they’re unable to communicate these wants to their parents. 

It would be challenging to teach this child how to communicate his desire for specific clothing if he’s sitting in a therapist’s office. If the subject did arise during a session, the therapist would be forced to mimic the situation in their clinical environment.

The naturalistic teaching method would encourage the therapist to be in the room with the child while picking out clothes. There they would have his clothing on hand, and the ABA therapist could teach, for example, the language skills needed to complete this task. 

The naturalistic teaching style is not unstructured; it takes a relaxed situational approach to help children make connections. This therapeutic approach is designed to imitate a child’s traditional instruction except with a focus on Autism Spectrum Disorder.

What are the benefits of naturalistic ABA therapy?

1. It’s Practical

A benefit of naturalistic ABA therapy is that it’s practical and applicable for a child with autism. 

It’s one thing to memorize the acceptable responses and answers to various situations. Yet it is futile if you don’t understand how to apply this new knowledge to your natural settings. 

By incorporating ABA teachings into a familiar environment, children will be more likely to experience natural reinforcement outside their traditional ABA therapy sessions.

2. It’s Fun

A typical naturalistic ABA therapy session may be when the therapist enters your home and engages your child through daily activities or play while creating learning opportunities. 

An example of this would be coloring. While your child is coloring, the therapist works on showing them how to request specific colors and label those colors, all while actively engaging in the form of play. 

While your child has fun at home, the therapist can target and work on some crucial skills. To the child, this won’t look like work. Instead, it will appear as simply an extension of play. 

3. It improves generalization.

Natural environment teaching can help with the generalization of skills being taught within ABA therapy. Generalizing is defined as being able to ‘use’ the talent they’re being taught. This is thanks to the fact that the skills are being instructed in a natural setting through their daily routines. 

4. It helps with reinforcement.

When a therapist can teach throughout a child’s daily activities, they can access naturally occurring reinforcement. This means your child will have the chance to learn and grow through play.  

5. It’s family-friendly

Naturalistic teaching is a simple method that anyone can use almost anywhere. Grandparents, parents, and siblings can use it. Therapists can provide basic training to family members, covering naturalistic teachings to help get them on board. When families understand the basic concepts, they can apply them at home, incorporating what is relatable within their child’s environment. 

What are the techniques used in naturalistic ABA therapy?

There are approximately 27 evidence-based teaching methods associated with naturalistic intervention. This is according to the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders. Some of the most popular ones include the following:

ABA Therapist Playing with Blocks During Naturalistic ABA Therapy For A Child With Autism

Incidental Teaching

Incidental teaching aims to increase a child with autism’s motivation to speak. This is the approach most often used with a child with communication skills already. When using this method, the therapist prompts the child to say something about a game or toy they already use. The key is that the child has already shown interest in the item because they chose it. Conversation is encouraged by using hand gestures, sign language, or pictures.

Pivotal Response Training

Pivotal response training takes a much broader approach to therapy by examining what motivates a child’s behavior. The focus is on the cause of the behaviors instead of the behaviors themselves. The therapist must delve deep into what causes the child’s behaviors and how they manage their behaviors and feelings and respond or remain unresponsive to social interaction.

Pivotal response training enables greater choice in the types of tasks a child might complete. It focuses on rewarding any effort the child might make at correcting or self-regulating negative behaviors such as self-injury.

Natural Language Paradigm 

The natural language paradigm (NLP)  is most suited to children with autism who are non-verbal. In these situations, the therapist might sit face-to-face with a child and offer a choice of games, activities, or toys. The child can select one.

The therapist then models how to play or interact with the item, offering words to identify their actions. Then it’s the child’s turn to play with the item and is taken away. The therapist prompts the child to repeat the necessary words so that the item can be returned. This is an example of a classic reward system where the item represents the reward for which the child has to use language to have it returned. 

Locating Naturalistic ABA therapy near me

At Heartlinks, we understand that finding the correct type of therapy for your child with Autism can be daunting. ABA is an umbrella with many different therapies residing under it, including natural environment teaching. 

Whether you’re located near our locations in Indiana, Georgia, or New Jersey, what is most important is not to feel intimidated by trying to comprehend the different subtypes of ABA therapies.

We’ve prioritized the forms of naturalistic teaching because we feel they are the most effective and uniquely formulated for children. Yet we use various therapies based on your child’s unique needs to ensure we unlock all of their potential.   

At Heartlinks, we encourage our parents to ask questions so that they feel comfortable with what is being brought forth and taught. In truth, all inquiries are valid because they provide the answers you need to feel comfortable.

It’s time to learn more about naturalistic teaching ABA!

ABA therapy is tremendously beneficial in helping children with autism develop the adaptive skills and social behaviors needed to function in their everyday lives. However, when traditional ABA is combined with naturalistic ABA therapy, the door to new and exciting possibilities for generalized learning opens even more comprehensively. 

To learn more about ABA therapy and naturalistic teaching ABA, we encourage you to reach out to Heartlinks to learn more. 
We look forward to speaking with you!

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