When people think of Applied Behaviour Analysis they tend to associate it with children – after all, this form of therapy is primarily used as a treatment for children and teenagers on the autism spectrum. But that doesn’t mean its use is exclusive to kids.
ABA has various potential benefits for adults on the spectrum. Below we’re going to cover the different ways that this effective therapy can be used to help people over 18, so you can decide whether ABA therapy for adults may be something that you or your loved one could benefit from.
What Is ABA?
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is a type of therapy used to build skills and improve behavior through a range of reinforcement strategies. It was devised to primarily treat people (most often children) on the autism spectrum, but today it can also be used in combination with medication and other forms of therapy to treat issues such as ADHD, PTSD, anxiety, and more.
ABA is an evidence-based treatment with years worth of controlled scientific studies behind it, confirming its effectiveness and reliability as a treatment for autism and other disorders. Though it can be carried out both one-on-one and in groups, it is a highly specialized treatment that seeks to cater to the individual’s needs and behaviors.
When using ABA, therapists are able to effectively reinforce positive behaviors and divert negative ones. They can also help patients to build and improve on specific life skills that will improve their quality of life and reduce their need for special care as they grow older.
ABA helps to improve skills including but not limited to:
- Social skills
- Fine motor skills
- Reading & writing
- Domestic skills
- Hygiene & grooming
ABA Treatment For Adults
Regardless of its association with children, ABA has also been shown to positively affect adults who are on the autism spectrum, when used in the right ways.
It’s true that most research around ABA is focused on children – in fact, this therapy is believed to be most effective when used on children under 4 years old. Certain ABA strategies are simply not applicable for adults, such as early intensive behavioral intervention, which involves ongoing one-on-one behavioral intervention (particularly for behavior such as aggression or self-harm) for children typically under the age of five.
However, ABA can be very beneficial for patients with autism regardless of age, as even adults on the spectrum can require further improvement with skill-building and navigating everyday life. Even if the individual has developed plenty of basic and essential life skills, ABA can still help them to work on job training, individual living, and more. And all of this can be done in a safe and controlled environment.
For example, pivotal response training can encourage adults with autism to learn more and build on their current skills in everyday environments, through a series of specialized rewards and positive reinforcement. This can include shopping, using public transport, talking in groups, etc.
Discrete trial training (DTT) and verbal behavior intervention (VBI) are two other helpful strategies used in ABA to help treat adults. VBI teaches people how language and communication work, and how to functionally apply the words we use to everyday life.
Essentially, it teaches adults how to communicate more efficiently to get what they need. DTT breaks down skill learning into smaller and more manageable components and uses rewards intermittently to reinforce correct application.
These are just a few ways that ABA can be used to treat adults on the autism spectrum. Finding ongoing behavioral therapies for autistic adults is essential as it contributes to support and intervention that may reduce risk factors for these individuals. Adults with autism have a higher risk of depression and anxiety, and ABA can help to guide and encourage these individuals, as well as give them the means to connect more easily with community resources.
If you are looking for further therapeutic treatments for an adult on the autism spectrum, our team at Bolling ABA is here to help. We are an Atlanta-based behavioral consultancy for individuals with autism or related disorders. You can email us or call at +404-981-4105 to book your first appointment.