As a parent of a child with learning difficulties, or a child that has been diagnosed with autism, or is perhaps going through the process of diagnoses, you may feel you are facing many challenges. One of them is deciding how to best support your child and this is how you most likely came across this blog. So if your question is ‘’What might an early ABA programme for my child look like’’, continue reading.
First of all, you and your child will meet a board-certified behaviour analyst who will gather as much information as possible about your child. This will be done through an interview and a formal assessment such as The Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP) which assesses the language, learning and social skills of your child. Such an assessment will provide crucial information about your child’s current level of skills, areas of strength as well as highlighting areas where your child needs support. Based on the assessment, targets specific to your child’s needs will be set.
An early learning program typically focuses on supporting the development of language and communication skills. It may consist of teaching your child to appropriately request desired objects or activities – Mands; to label objects, people or events – Tacts; to imitate speech sounds and words – Echoic; or to answer questions – Intraverbals. For non-verbal children or children with limited language skills, it may mean an introduction of alternative communication tools such as the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) or Makaton.
Another area that an early learning program focuses on is listener responding which is teaching the child to follow instructions. Also, programs like receptive objects or receptive colours which will teach the child to discriminate between different stimuli upon an instruction are typically introduced. Just to name a few more matching to sample, or object manipulation to achieve the desired outcome are also commonly introduced at the early stages.
Furthermore, social skills, independent play skills and self-help skills relevant to the child’s age and needs will be taught to help the child to become as independent as possible and to teach the child to navigate social situations. In addition to this, any behaviour that is identified as challenging will be addressed.
You might think that all that sounds important but not much fun! This is where skilled ABA therapists come in. They deliver teaching sessions in a carefully planned and structured way whilst ensuring that your child is learning at the same time as having fun. Lots of things that your child likes will be incorporated into teaching. Does your child like sensory play? Let’s teach him whilst playing with shaving foam. Or perhaps animals are his passion so we bring in a toy farm. There is so much we can teach during a play. We use Natural Environment Teaching to teach children in the ‘’real world’’ as much as possible because it is fun, because it helps to generalise skills and because it is an evidence-based approach. We also recognise the importance of structured table learning because our learners do go to schools and they do need to learn how to sit down and work at the table. But we have heaps of tools to help us to make learning fun and sucessful.