Overview of an ABA programme:
An ABA programme is designed to teach children on the autistic spectrum skills in the areas where they typically have problems with their development: language and communication, play, social interaction with other people (family members, other adults, peers) and self-help skills (such as toilet training and dressing). The programme also introduces strategies to help combat behaviour issues such as anxiety, tantrums, lack of flexibility, obsessional interests and repetitive behaviours.
Children with a diagnosis of autism can be enormously different from one another and as a result each ABA programme is designed and tailor made by the child’s ABA consultant to meet that child’s specific needs. All programmes do however follow a developmental curriculum.
An ABA programme is delivered at home by ABA trained tutors (who receive initial training and on-going supervision from an ABA Consultant). The sessions are made up of structured teaching targets that are designed to develop language, play and social skills. These targets are broken down into small, achievable steps and taught using a consistent set of guidelines for how skills are taught (called the 'discrete trial'). Rewards are used to motivate the child to learn new skills. The sessions also include unstructured 'interactive play'. During this time tutor's work on developing their relationship with the child and making sure the child is having fun. They also work on generalising play skills and mastered concepts, developing social communication and teaching social skills, for example, playing in a flexible way and sharing toys. Once skills have been taught in a 1:1 setting, an ABA programme teaches children to generalise what they have learnt to their everyday life. At this point we fade the rewards so that the child does not become dependent on rewards and vary how concepts are presented so they can be generalised to lots of different settings.
An ABA programme focuses on teaching skills that a child will be able to use in nursery and school and the aim is that a child's learning can gradually transfer to school. The ABA consultant visits the nursery or school once a term to liaise with staff and share strategies. This also enables us to identify targets that the child needs to work on to help them access school and these targets are incorporated into the ABA programme.
The effectiveness of an ABA programme is not just based on the methodology that is used, it is down to the intensity of ABA hours on a weekly basis, the high levels of training and on-going supervision that ABA tutors receive, the total consistency in approach across all environments (ABA sessions, family time, out in the community, in nursery or pre-school), the structured acquisition sequence for new skills and mastery criteria of skills based on data collection.