Measuring Success: The Evidence-Based Approach of ABA Therapy

Modern clinicians are more adept at recognizing the signs of autism in children. New data from the Centers for Disease Control states that about one in 36 kids have autism spectrum disorder. Early diagnosis of autism is important since children can benefit from support and therapies. Moreover, early intervention can boost independence and help lay the foundation for a happy and healthy life.

Luckily, there is plenty of support for families with children newly diagnosed with autism. We can create a safe and inclusive environment for our little ones. Some forms of therapy, such as Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, can help kids learn and develop their social and communication skills. This field has several evidence-based techniques that can effectively promote skill acquisition and improve behavior.

Here’s what you need to know about the evidence-based approach to ABA therapy:

Defining Evidence-Based

“Evidence-based” refers to making decisions or drawing conclusions based on reliable evidence from scientific research, data, or expert consensus rather than personal opinion or anecdotal experiences. Following evidence-based practices helps promote informed choices and accuracy. 

It fosters trust by relying on proven facts rather than subjective biases or unsupported claims. In the context of therapy, “evidence-based” means there have been extensive studies and trials that take into context patient characteristics, preferences, and culture. 

For ABA therapy, in particular, multiple components are part of the evidence-based approach to teaching essential skills and measuring success: 

One-on-One Therapy

ABA therapy providers, such as Stride Autism Centers, offer one-on-one therapy sessions to help children aged two to six reach their goals. Some of these goals are related to communication, addressing behavioral challenges, and self-care, among others. Through this form of ABA therapy, kids with autism learn how to do tasks with the help of an experienced therapist. By breaking down a task into separate parts, the therapist teaches each part to the child before putting them together into a complete skill.

For instance, to teach kids how to brush their teeth, a therapist may create flashcards or an illustrated guide that breaks down the task into several steps. The child follows each step, from squeezing out the right amount of toothpaste to rinsing their mouth and toothbrush with water. As each step is followed correctly, the therapist rewards the child with praise or a preferred activity to reinforce the skill. 

The ABA therapist may also use this approach to teach a child critical concepts like shapes and colors. For example, the therapist may start by teaching them about the color blue. Then, they might ask the child to identify a blue-colored item inside the room, followed by positive reinforcement. The specialist might then move on to teaching a different color and repeat the process. ABA therapy is effective in helping children build basic skills, many of which serve as building blocks that promote independence and joy in their lives.

Measuring Success in ABA Therapy

Note that sessions are unique — just as all children are unique — and sessions can vary. Likewise, measures of “success” vary, and loved ones are encouraged not to compare their children to others or get caught up in metrics. 

Focus instead on individual outcomes. Your child’s Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) can provide more information on your child’s improvements and development. 

Naturalistic Group Activities

Children with autism can benefit from play and social interaction with peers. Socializing can help prepare them for school or school readiness and can boost confidence in new interactions. 

Play is a critical component of childhood development; some children with autism may need additional support in working on collaborative play (especially imaginative and interactive play, in particular). Supportive techniques (assistance from trained professionals and caregivers) have been shown to help.

Play is essential for childhood development; some children with autism may require extra assistance with collaborative play (). techniques (such as help from trained professionals and caregivers) have proven beneficial. 

In response to this research, ABA therapy centers typically offer naturalistic group activities so kids can interact with other children. Some of these activities may include using blocks to create miniature buildings and cities, playing catch or pass the ball, board or puzzle games, scavenger hunts, or games of “Follow the Leader.” 

The critical element here is the evidence-based work children do before engaging in such activities. Before the naturalistic activity, Board Certified Behavior Analysts might review expected behaviors through role play, social stories, or more that focus on concepts such as sharing. 

Participating in group activities can help a child with autism become more confident as it enhances their cognitive and fine motor skills. At the same time, it helps improve their ability to communicate with others and encourages them to express their feelings in a positive way. They work on important skills, such as problem-solving, communicating needs and desires, and impulse control, among others. 

Parent and Caregiver Training

Through parent and caregiver training, ABA clinicians can teach parents or caregivers techniques used in behavior management therapy to help reduce meltdowns or harmful actions and behaviors. 

Parents and caregivers can learn more about sensory sensitivities to create a safer and more pleasant home for their children. Some individuals with autism might be prone to sensory overload called hypersensitivity (like crowds or tags on clothing). Others might have hyposensitivity, meaning they experience reduced sensory information. Such individuals might seek additional sensory exposure (like new textures or loud noises). 

At times, people might have a mixture of both hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity. Families can take this new information and may make some changes to help children stay calm and feel safe. 

To support their child’s development, families could receive information specific to their children. Parents might be instructed on evidence-based techniques to mitigate difficult emotions, like creating a structured environment or developing coping strategies. 

Parents may also be instructed on using visuals since children with autism tend to be visual learners. Moreover, they may be taught to create a structured schedule and environment since consistency enables autistic kids to thrive and function better. 

The Evidence-Based ABA Therapy and Measuring Success

ABA therapy uses evidence-based techniques to help children with autism reach their full potential. If you think that your child may have autism, consult a mental health professional for diagnosis, and look into ABA therapy to help your little one learn and be more independent. 

Brad Zelinger is the Founder and CEO of Stride Autism Centers


Data & Statistics on Autism Spectrum Disorder | CDC

Evidence-Based Practice in Psychology | APA

Sensory sensitivities: autistic children and teenagers |

Collaborative play for autistic children: A systematic literature review | ScienceDirect

Meltdowns: autistic children & teenagers |

Sensory differences – a guide for all audiences | National Autistic Society

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