What is Applied Behavior Analysis and How Does it Help?
Applied Behavior Analysis refers to the process of carefully observing, teaching and modifying behavior. The technique proves successful for individuals diagnosed with autism or other developmental difficulties. By altering the immediate environment and monitoring responses, clinicians and educators hope to change behaviors or teach skills of daily living. The supervised methods are used in a controlled setting and may involve anywhere from 20 to 40 hours of instruction every week.
The ABC Basics
The first step requires analyzing three important current behavior responses.
- Antecedent: The child is requested to perform a specific action.
- Behavior: This involves the response to the request be it compliance, noncompliance or no response
- Consequence: The term refers to the therapist’s response to the child’s action by offering positive reinforcement or firm verbal disapproval.
Task Analysis: The process entails evaluating a chore or task to determine how to break the request into steps that may be taught using chaining.
Chaining: This phase of the technique involves teaching the youngster individual steps that eventually link together to complete a specific skill.
Prompting: A clinician, therapist or parent assists the child encouragingly in order to obtain the desired response. Prompting might include verbal or visual cues, physical guidance or an actual demonstration.
Fading: This phase involves a gradual decline in prompting, as the child demonstrates the desired behavior. This may be accomplished with fewer prompts or by graduating from demonstration and guidance to simple verbal cues.
Shaping: The action might also be considered molding, as the child’s behavior is gradually altered to achieve a specific effect. The behavior of a youngster who bites might gradually change into blowing kisses using repeated interventions and positive reinforcement when the child succeeds.
Differential reinforcement: The method involves offering positive or negative reinforcement appropriate to the act. Depending on the difficulty of the chore or behavior required, a therapist with an online certification in applied behavior analysis says this reinforcement can range from an encouraging word to an enthusiastic celebration of the child’s accomplishment.
Generalization: Once a child successfully completes a chore, skill or task within a certain time and in a structured environment, attempts are made to encourage the student to perform the action in other locations. For example, after learning basic reading skills in a classroom might transfer to reading at home or outdoors.
Video modeling: Videotaping serves as a learning technique while going through the chaining process. Each step of a task might be taped, linked together and presented to a student as a form of demonstrating an entire skill.
Applications for the Treatment of ADHD
When using applied behavior analysis to treat a child with ADHD, it is important to understand the motivation behind the behaviors which require correction. These behaviors, as exhibited in children with ADHD, are off-task and distracting, and typically originate from a desire to avoid undesirable activities (chores, work, etc.) or to get attention (from parents, peers, teachers, etc.). Before beginning an applied behavior treatment, be sure to conduct an assessment of the child’s behavior and possible reasons for it.
Applied behavior analysis remains the most common and effective method of helping children or adults having learning difficulties. The methods are often used to instill acceptable motor, cognitive, social or verbal skills. These can help an autistic child or a child with ADHD understand what proper social behavior and responses are—an extremely valuable skill for any child to have. The technique is also beneficial for altering inappropriate behaviors in children of all cognitive capabilities, including those with ADHD and learning disorders.
About the Author: Marlena Stoddard is a freelance writer who received her BA from the University of Georgia.
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