5 Ways Applied Behavior Analysis Can Help Adopted Children

5 Aspects of Applied Behavioral Analysis That Adopted Children Can Benefit From

  • Building Social Skills
  • Emotional Regulation
  • Teaching Self-Esteem
  • Sense of Stability
  • Family Involvement

Applied behavioral analysis is an approach to modifying behavior. While it is often used with and thus associated with autistic children, it can benefit a variety of populations ranging from people dealing with addictions, people with mental illness and more. It can also be used effectively to deal with some of the challenges faced by adopted children.

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1. Building Social Skills

Some adopted children may come from backgrounds of abuse or neglect or may have been in the foster system for some time, and their social skills might not be the best. Applied behavioral analysis can help adopted children build those skills. Appropriate social skills can be taught, modeled and practiced with children, and children can get feedback as they role play behaviors in a safe environment. One advantage of ABA is that it can break down interactions into steps that are as specific as possible as needed for children. ABA can also help children develop social skills at different levels of sophistication. For example, some children may need to work on taking turns and preparing for school while others might need to work on keeping conversations going.

2. Emotional Regulation

Some adopted children may struggle with emotional regulation particularly if they have experienced trauma. One focus of ABA is on continual feedback and communication, so children working with a therapist who specializes in ABA will get ongoing feedback about the appropriateness of various behaviors. Children can also be taught to identify emotions and to respond appropriately. For example, they can learn how to recognize that they are starting to feel frustrated and ask for a break. The ABA therapist can assist with this by modeling these behaviors as well.

3. Teaching Self-Esteem

As an article that appeared in Paediatrics Child Health discussed, school-age children who are adopted may suffer from low self-esteem as a result of feeling their biological parents rejected them. It is important to look at how those feelings of low self-esteem are manifesting in order to effectively treat them using ABA techniques. For example, perfectionism or difficulty making decisions can be signs of struggling with self-esteem. An ABA therapist can work with the adopted child to model and reinforce that making mistakes or the wrong decision is okay.

4. Sense of Stability

One big challenge for adopted children can be developing a sense of stability. The long-term nature of ABA therapy and the rapport that is built between the child and therapist can help build that sense of stability. During a session, the attention is all on the child, and this can also be beneficial for a child whose emotional needs may have been neglected. The consistency of response involved in ABA therapy can also help increase this feeling of stability.

5. Family Involvement

Parental involvement is an important element of ABA, and as with many other areas of children’s lives, parental involvement in applied behavioral analysis can help an adopted child feel included. Parents can learn many of the techniques used to reinforce the child’s behavior, and this can mean the child improves more quickly.

Some people may think of adoption as the happy ending to a child’s story, but in many ways, it can mean a new set of challenges. Applied behavioral therapy for adopted children can be critical in helping the child adjust and develop the social, emotional and cognitive skills that may be lacking.