Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is based on the science of behaviorism with over 50 years of empirical knowledge behind it. Behavior Analysts use scientifically valid methods to increase behaviors or to teach new behaviors, to maintain behaviors, to generalize behaviors to other environments, as well as to reduce problem behaviors or any behaviors that interfere with learning. It is a true science and Behavior Analysts adhere to its principles of data collection to monitor progress.
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is the only scientifically valid treatment for autism and has been endorsed by most state and federal agencies. Within ABA there are also various treatment approaches and methodologies. ABA is the science of learning and motivation and it is widely applicable to a variety of fields.
Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) are masters level clinicians who have completed approved graduate programs in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), met supervised fieldwork hour requirements, and passed a certifying exam through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). This is not an entry level qualification and most Behavioral Analysts have been working in the field for a number of years. BCBAs are required to keep up to date in the latest research by participating in continuing education coursework to maintain their certification, and are bound to adhere to strict ethical guidelines. Please see the BACB website for more information about these requirements and to verify the qualifications of service providers.
People with autism can acquire new skills by being taught that engaging in a certain response will bring about some type of reward. Because social interactions or social praise are not always rewarding to people with autism, some unnatural rewards may be used at first to increase the motivation to engage in the desired behavior until more natural situational rewards can have an opportunity to take their place.
ABA has also suffered from the stereotype that it produces ‘robotic’ results. Unfortunately this can be true when services are provided by inexperienced practitioners who teach skills in a very inflexible and rote manner or who fail to work on generalization training. Because inflexibility and the inability to generalize skills across environments are characteristic of autism, it is especially important that all skills be taught in natural contexts as quickly as possible.
Many families who reject the more unnatural aspects of ABA teaching, may become turned off to ABA entirely and seek out non-research based treatment approaches which focus on relationship building and play. However, these same aspects of relationship building and play can also be used in ABA. In fact, these alternative therapies are only successful if they use the principles of behaviorism to begin with (harnessing motivation, tracking progress, etc.). Behaviorism is based in motivation–and you cannot teach anything without some degree of engagement or perceived value.
Horizons Behavioral Consultants firmly believes that in order to achieve the best results for clients everyone working with the client must be on the same page. This includes educators, service providers, and family members. Horizons Behavioral Consultants is unique in that its center-based program allows Speech Therapy and Occupation Therapy Services to work with our clients on-site, thus allowing for us to easily bridge the gap between all service providers. We also routinely go into clients’ schools to collaborate with educators and provide on-going training to parents and other family members. Our goal is to offer support and ensure consistency across all environments.
Horizons Behavioral Consultants share a philosophy in the benefits of naturalistic teaching. We believe skills taught in the natural environment and in natural situations produce the greatest results. Our approach revolves around using the client’s interests to create motivation for learning. We also adhere to teaching the most important skills first, skills that revolve around the core deficits of autism like communication (expressing wants, answering questions, labeling objects in the environment), social skills (watching and learning from others, engaging with others, sharing experiences with others, following social norms), and play (using objects appropriately as intended, being able to remain engaged in activities, playing with peers).
ABA Therapy is the umbrella containing various different approaches (discrete trial teaching, pivotal response training, verbal behavior, natural environment teaching, etc.) When considering any treatment it is most important for families to ensure their treatment is a valid ABA approach. There are many types of autism treatment programs available that are not scientifically valid, make false claims to their effectiveness, and ultimately waste valuable treatment time. The best ABA treatments incorporate all these various different approaches based on each individual client and their learning histories.
Therapy revolves around the skill acquisition goals indicated in the plan. These are the behaviors that we would like to increase, and behavior reduction goals are the maladaptive behaviors that we wish to decrease. The skill acquisition goals are meant to replace or provide communicative alternatives to the problem behavior and serve as a foundation for learning various other necessary skills.
We are happy to discuss services and answer any questions you may have about what we do and our treatment approach. We do require interviews with parents and clients to determine if our program would be a good fit for your family. It is important to note that we are only admitting clients to our program who are a likely to be a good fit with us and our current clients and who are in need of on-going services (not only services for the summer, etc). It is important that our learning environment remain conducive to the success of all clients. Therefore, we may refer families to other providers who can offer more appropriate services.
Upon admission to our program, we begin an intake process which includes completion of intake paperwork, a parent interview & behavioral observation of the client, an assessment, and a formal behavior intervention plan along with proposed treatment goals. Direct therapy then begins revolving around the treatment plan with daily data collection. The behavior plan is very much a changing document and is modified frequently. We implement structure right away with new clients at the same time as we begin developing rapport.