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What is ABA?

Applied behavior analysis is very effective for students with autism spectrum disorders. It is a teaching technique that utilizes the theory that we can modify behavior using a system of reinforcers. Applied behavior analysis breaks down behavior by what occurs before a behavior (antecedent) and what occurs after a behavior (consequence). ABA is systematic and relies heavily on data collection. It is very effective for several reasons; one of those reasons is its intensity. Another reason that it is so effective is because it utilizes data-based decision making. If data does not show that the child is progressing, modifications are made to ensure progress is made.

Some children with autism have home programs using the principles of applied behavior analysis to help the child reach their full potential. A home team consists of 2-4 people who come to the child’s home a few hours a week to implement the home program designed by a consultant. Home programming takes place one-on-one with a tutor/therapist for 5-40 hours per week. Home tutors/therapists can be students, family members, family friends, teachers or anyone who is able to have fun while teaching.

Programming may consist of communication goals, pre-academic and/or academic goals or life skills training, depending on the specific needs of the child. Programming is designed by a consultant and is specific to your child’s strengths and deficits. Before a program is designed the consultant assesses the individual child, sometimes using the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills (ABLLS). Because ABA is data-driven, your child’s home team will take data on targeted skills and the data will guide further programming.

A lot of talk exists in the autism community about different types of applied behavior analysis. There are numerous of acronyms used to include “ABA,” “VB,” “AVB,” “DTT.” All of these acronyms refer to the science of behavior analysis. Verbal behavior (VB) is applied behavior analysis (ABA) with an emphasis on Skinner’s analysis of language. When referring to verbal behavior, you are referring to applied behavior analysis with a focus on verbal behavior.

The following is a list of frequently asked questions regarding ABA and home programming:

How do I get started?

  1. Hire a consultant. The consultant can assist you in making decisions appropriate for your home program and give you information on resources.
  2. Decide how many hours per week you are going conduct therapy and a potential schedule for tutors/therapists. You will need to know the number of hours and a potential schedule when begin the hiring process.
  3. Hire a team of tutors/therapists.
    1. College students are typically ideal candidates for in-home ABA/VB therapists because they have flexible schedules and are usually open to learning. Sometimes extended relatives, church members, family friends or retired individuals make effective therapists. It is a good idea to network with other families to see if they may know someone who needs extra hours or they may be able to point you in the correct direction. I recommend the following websites to begin the networking process in the Dayton and Cincinnati areas:
  4. Buy materials. The following is a suggested list:
    1. Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills (ABLLS)
    2. Language Builder Card Set
    3. Tally Counters (2) (Counters aid in data collection, by clicking the frequency of a target behavior.)
    4. Lots of reinforcers that your child likes (candy, chips, toys, etc.)
  5. Schedule an initial training workshop with your consultant and home team. Initial training workshops are anywhere from 6-12 hours, depending on the consultant and/or organization who is conducting the training. The purpose of the initial training workshop is to give the child’s team (parents, grandparents, tutors, therapists, babysitters, etc.) an introduction to ABA/VB as it applies to the particular child and his/her goals.

What are the qualifications of a home tutor/therapist?

  • Willingness to learn
  • Willingness to have fun and be silly, while still taking teaching procedures seriously
  • Ability to follow directions
  • At least 6 months of childcare experience
  • Willingness to complete background check (recommended)
  • CPR certification (recommended)

How much do I need to pay home tutors/therapists?
In general home tutors/therapists charge between $8-20 per hour, which is highly dependent on their level of experience.

How many hours per week does my child need? What is an ideal schedule for my child?
Ideally, the child needs between 15-35 hours per week of applied behavior analysis. Research demonstrates that the more intensive the programming, the more effective the results are. Ideally, the child would have a team of 2-4 tutors, involved parents, and persons in related services (i.e. speech) who are active participants in the child’s applied behavior analysis/verbal behavior program. Conducting sessions at home allows for convenience and the natural environment which the child learns in.

What are some books/videos you would recommend?

When Everybody Cares: Case Studies of ABA with People with Autism
– by Bobby Newman
Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills
– by James Pardington and Mark Sundberg
Teaching Verbal Behavior: An Introduction to Parents Teaching
– by Dr. James Partington. VIDEO – 50 minutes
A Collection of Reprints on Verbal Behavior
– by Drs. Mark Sundberg and Jack Michael.