An applied behavior analysis (ABA) counseling session can take many different forms depending on the needs of the individual. These sessions are often used to help children and adults with an autism spectrum disorder or similar condition develop essential life and social skills through behavior modification. This type of therapy has proven to be an effective and safe way to address some of the most significant symptoms associated with developmental and learning disorders. Sessions follow a scientific approach that emphasizes repetition and achieving measurable results.
Client-Centered Therapy Model
While there are some typical elements that are commonly seen in ABA counseling, there is no set standard for session structure. Since autism and related disorders take many different forms, this kind of therapy is usually designed around the unique combination of needs of each individual participant. The purpose of the counseling is to address specific behaviors that hinder the person’s ability to communicate with others, form normal relationships or succeed in an academic setting. Sessions are structured to prioritize socially significant behaviors, including basic life skills like reading, cooking and personal hygiene.
Discrete Trials and Positive Reinforcement
Discrete trial training (DTT) describes one of the basic techniques used in ABA sessions to produce a desired behavior. Typically, children are rewarded for performing a certain action or behavior in response to a set queue. Discrete trials focus on positive reinforcement and do not punish the individual for failing to exhibit the desired behavior. This method helps the child establish some control and awareness of their actions, and it’s particular useful as a short-term management technique for unacceptable social behavior.
Building Broad Skills
Discrete trials are one of the many building blocks that counselors use to help children develop larger, complex skill-sets that they need to function in life. Many people with an autism spectrum disorder can lead independent and full adult lives, which is why ABA counseling often broadens over time to encourage overall growth. Counselors create scenarios to simulate real life problems or situations so they can guide their client towards positive interaction with their environment. Props and other tools may be used to provide a sense of realism and substance to the experience.
Planning, Review and Measurement
ABA counseling relies heavily on the scientific method, which means results must be quantified and compared to previous data to measure success. There are many aspects of human behavior that are difficult to reduce to numbers, but this approach can also distill a complex process to a series of manageable steps. Parents and caregivers are expected to participate in the planning and review process surrounding each session. The counselor also takes careful note of the results of each session so they can track the success of their client and adjust their therapy as needed.
Behavioral counseling for children with learning and social impairments is a long-term process that requires commitment from the entire family. While these disorders present many challenges at home and school, they can also be managed with support and concerted effort on the part of the parents. ABA sessions vary greatly depending on the individual, but all of them require consistent involvement and input to achieve best results.
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