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Behavioural Interventions

Behavioural interventions are grounded heavily in learning theory, they are built on the premise that most human behaviour is learned through the interaction between an individual and his or her environment.  Behavioural interventions aim to teach and increase targeted positive behaviours and reduce or eliminate inappropriate or non-adaptive behaviours .  Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) and Discrete Trial Training (DTT) continue to constitute the core features of most behavioural intervention programs.

A bit about ABA

ABA is the term generally used for programs which teach according to the principles of BF Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning. In a nutshell, this means that children will do more of the things they find positively reinforcing and less of the things that have negative consequences.

ABA is often called Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention (EIBI).

IN ABA programs, each child’s strengths and weaknesses are assessed and then a comprehensive program is created for the child. Things that need to be learned –  like saying words, learning non-verbal gestures, playing with toys and then peers, washing hands, eating etc – are broken down into tiny steps and then taught systematically, little by little.

Children’s difficulties are also approached using a slow but steady approach. Many children hate having haircuts or fear supermarkets and these sorts of issues can be improved slowly but surely.

To be considered ABA, a program must be intensive, with 20 – 40 hours of therapy taking place each week PLUS with the family using the same methods and working on the same activities in non-therapy hours.

But don’t panic! Often the teaching is done in play so the child doesn’t know they are learning at all.

More about ABA theory

Applied behaviour analysis (ABA) is an intervention in which the principles of learning theory are applied in a systematic and measurable manner to increase, reduce, maintain, and/or generalise target behaviours.

These behaviours include reading and other academic skills, social skills, communication, and adaptive living skills. Adaptive living skills include gross and fine motor skills, eating and food preparation, toileting, dressing, personal self-care, domestic skills, time and punctuality, money and value, home and community orientation, and work skills.

There is universal agreement that behavioural interventions have produced positive outcomes for children with autism that are well supported by research.

Few other treatment programs have been subjected to the level of research scrutiny that has been applied to behavioural interventions.

Be wary of… the program which claims to be ABA but offers just a few hours a week. Programs may offer a behavioural approach but without the intensity, they cannot be described as ABA or EIBI programs.

Helpful Resources

Behavioural Interventions – Research Autism