Does Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy Help with Learning Difficulties?

When children develop learning difficulties as they get older, it can be a frustrating and demoralizing experience. But it’s important to know that they are far from alone: in the US, up to 1 in 5 children live with learning and attention issues, and almost 3 million children nationwide require special education services due to a learning disability.

If your child is experiencing learning difficulties then you have probably been searching for every effective treatment you can find. During your search, you may have stumbled across applied behavioral analysis (ABA) a form of therapy used to treat behavioral and developmental issues in children, particularly those on the autism spectrum.

But can ABA be used to help people who have learning difficulties? Keep reading for more on ABA and its relationship to learning and disabilities.

What Is A Learning Disability?

First, it’s important to understand whether your child has a learning disability, as this will help to clarify whether ABA treatment is the right option for them.

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Learning disabilities are neurological disorders that affect how people perceive, process, and respond to information. They are most often (but not always) diagnosed in early childhood, as the difficulties they cause children will first become obvious as they enter the school system. Depending on the disability, they typically affect a person’s proficiency in reading, writing, or math. In some cases, this can extend to life/social skills such as organization and attentiveness.

Types of learning disabilities can include dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, non-verbal learning disabilities, Oral/ written language Disorder, and Specific Reading Comprehension deficit.

Do People With ASD and ADHD Experience Learning Disabilities?

Many children who struggle with learning disabilities also happen to fall on the autism spectrum or may have (diagnosed or undiagnosed) attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Unfortunately for many people on the autism spectrum, learning disabilities are prevalent for those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In fact, studies show that as many as 60-70% of people diagnosed with autism will also have a learning disability. Children and adults with this disorder can find themselves facing significant challenges that lead to seemingly insurmountable obstacles at school and tertiary institutions.

Reading, writing, and mathematics are some of the main areas that people with ASD may struggle in, but they can also face difficulties when it comes to studying, organization, and time management. Sitting exams can also be difficult.

People with ADHD also have a predisposition for learning difficulties. While ADHD is not a specific learning disability, it is quite common for children and adults to have learning disabilities with ADHD. Not to mention, the symptoms of ADHD can seriously interfere with a child’s ability to learn and study.

How Can ABA Therapy Help With Learning Disabilities?

While ABA therapy is typically used to treat children and adults on the autism spectrum, particularly in developing life skills and positive behaviors, it is also a significant therapeutic tool to facilitate learning. An ABA therapist is able to structure the ideal environment to help your child learn and develop necessary skills for learning, such as listening, reading, and writing.

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ABA therapy helps children and adults with learning disabilities to break down larger learning/skill goals into smaller steps, so they can approach each component individually. As they progress through each step they will also be given small individualized rewards as positive reinforcement. Breaking down large goals into more manageable bite-sized tasks is an important part of Discrete Trial Training (DTT), one of the primary strategies used in ABA therapy.

DTT makes complex tasks, particularly skills, easier to process and absorb. But ABA therapists can also implement learning techniques such as chaining, chunking, clustering, and classical conditioning to help children and adults develop productive skills and better learning comprehension.

Naturally, ABA treatment for people with learning disabilities will vary depending on the individual’s needs and goals, as not everyone with a learning disability faces the same challenges or respond to the same techniques. Your ABA therapist will implement a highly customized plan to empower and engage your child.

If you think your child has learning difficulties that might benefit from ABA therapy, get in touch with Bolling ABA. Our Atlanta-based team specializes in ABA-based therapeutic treatment for children with autism and related disorders. You can call us at 404.981.4105 or send an email to book your first appointment.

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