The Basics of Autism and ABA Services
By AJ Beyrer, Ph.D., LCSW, LBA, BCBA-D
With an increase in mental health awareness, autism spectrum disorder or ASD has become more known in recent years. Characterized by skill deficits in language, communication, socialization, and behavior, ASD affects about 1 in 54 children according to the Center for Disease Control. Signs of ASD can appear in children as early as 18 months and early intervention can be the key to positive outcomes. Researchers have surmised that autism is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Since 2013, the diagnosis of autism has changed into a “spectrum” disorder. The American Psychiatric Association has combined autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome into what we now know as ASD. The combination of multiple diagnoses into a “spectrum” has expanded the criteria of autism into many subsets. Each person diagnosed has unique and specific strengths and challenges to consider before seeking treatment.
One such treatment is ABA or applied behavior analysis. ABA is a therapy-based modality founded on the scientific principles of psychologist B.F. Skinner since the 1960s. ABA practitioners focus on the behavioral concerns and skill development of language, social skills, academics, and communication. Therapy involves exploring how behavior is maintained by the environment of the individual. ABA is founded on the basic principles that behaviors are products of our natural environment and therefore can be manipulated. Both governmental and medicinal entities have recognized ABA as a proven modality successful at addressing symptoms associated with ASD due to its evidence-based efficacy.
When considering ABA services, many factors should be taken into consideration as ABA may not be appropriate for everyone. Those without skill deficits in communication, socialization, or functional living skills may have other treatment options that may best fit their needs. For those interested in ABA services, there are a few recommendations and items with which one should familiarize themselves. Topics such as how ABA therapy works, when/how to access services, what to look for in a provider, and what questions I should ask when seeking services are important to review and consider. We at Benchmark Human Services are happy to review each of these questions with those interested in services or you can simply read more in-depth on these topics in our blog at benchmarkhs.com. To learn more about our ABA services visit Autism and ABA at Benchmark.