ABA Therapy in Children vs. Adults

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is a commonly used scientific treatment method for individuals on the autism spectrum. ABA focuses on the function of behaviors and how different environments can impact behaviors of both children and adults with a diagnosis of autism. This method has been widely used since the 1960s, since ABA can be easily adapted for different ages, levels of ability, settings, and behaviors. ABA is also successful as it aims to build new positive skills and reduce skills that are not beneficial.

Because ABA therapy does not recommend one treatment plan for every individual, this method can be easily used for patients throughout the full span of their lifetime. This also means that therapists who provide ABA services must be flexible in implementing treatment plans. What works for one child on the autism spectrum may be completely unproductive for another child with the same diagnosis.

ABA therapy for children
ABA therapy can be used with children who are on the autism spectrum to promote typical development of cognitive, communication, and social skills. As some children may begin ABA therapy as part of an early intervention treatment plan, the therapist may incorporate play into the sessions to keep the child actively engaged and focused. Toys for ABA therapy might include sensory toys to improve sensory integration skills (e.g. water beads or fidgets), puzzles to build problem solving, board games to improve cognition and communication. Many children who are on the autism spectrum also have areas of high interest (e.g. Thomas the Tank Engine), so their levels engagement might increase when incorporating this area of interest into therapy.

ABA therapy for adults
While you might think of ABA therapy as a modality used primarily for children, adults who have a diagnosis of autism can also benefit from ABA therapy. The core principles of ABA stay the same for treatment with adults on the autism spectrum, but the specific goals are typically different than the goals set for children. For example, ABA therapy for an adult might include life skills (e.g. finding and maintaining employment or living independently), physical health (e.g. setting an appointment with a doctor when sick), or social interactions (e.g. appropriate interactions with co-workers or new acquaintances). Both children and adults may work on social skills in ABA, but they will apply the skills to different contexts.

Chicago ABA Therapy specializes in ABA therapy for young children and offers a range of services including ABA therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and a therapeutic preschool.