If you are working with a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, the way you word instructions and prompts is extremely important. In fact, the way that you phrase your message can have a great impact on behaviors and mindset. In ABA therapy, the goal is understanding the function of the behavior in order to build positive behaviors and resolve problematic behaviors.
ABA therapy is scientifically proven to provide results for children on the autism spectrum, as it targets a wide range of developmental skills, from communication to social skills. As you will often be working with kiddos who exhibit challenging behaviors throughout the course of ABA therapy, your natural instinct can be to simply say “no” to those behaviors. While this is not necessarily bad, there are, perhaps, more effective and positive phrases that you can use.
Instead of just telling the child that their behavior was inappropriate in that situation, you are providing them with a positive alternative. Since building positive behaviors is an integral part of ABA therapy, it is important to both model and reinforce positive behaviors throughout ABA therapy.
Keep in mind, every child is different, so every child will respond differently to verbal cues. Rather than embracing a “one-size-fits-all” mindset for ABA therapy, it is important to try different methods to see what works for each child. A verbal cue that works well for one child on your caseload may evoke a negative response in another child.
Words also matter when it comes to positive reinforcement. As your child begins to exhibit the positive behaviors that you are working on in ABA therapy, be sure to reward them! They are putting hard work into ABA therapy sessions, so it is important to recognize when they behave appropriately, in order to build these positive behaviors. For example, if you have a child who tends to grab toys from classmates and they actually ask for a turn, then you can reward them with a short YouTube video (in their area of high interest). In order to help reinforce positive behaviors outside of therapy sessions, it can be helpful to have parents incorporated in therapy. This will allow parents to reinforce the practices in ABA therapy at home.
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