The link between behavioral science and autism and how to use ABA to help you child with autism

Behavioral science and autism: how to help your child

 Although the science of ABA (applied behavioral analysis) can be applied to any type of behavior, it is most often applied to individuals with autism and people with ASD. Behavioral science and autism are linked. Why is that? Without all the jargon, ABA is the science of motivation and learning, and while autism is not considered a learning disability, the neurodiversity that accompanies the core deficits of autism impact learning because of a difference in motivation for those diagnosed with autism.

It’s easiest to explain autism if you think of it as a motivation difference, which means that individuals with autism are not motivated by the typical things, namely social interaction. They are motivated by atypical things: repetitive motions, or lining things up, or spinning or learning all the capitals of every country in the world. 

This difference in motivation actually wouldn’t be such a major problem except that all learning occurs by watching, listening, interacting, and responding socially.

Our entire learning system is set up to be a social experience.

If you are a person who does not get motivation from social interaction—or in the case of people with autism—you would rather avoid social interaction altogether, you are going to miss out on all kinds of learning opportunities.

This is why symptoms of autism seem to ‘get worse’ as children with autism get older. As they mature, their disinterest in social interaction deprives them of typical learning opportunities, which drives them to find interest in other, less typical areas, which deprives them of even more learning opportunities… and the cycle continues unless someone helps to increase social motivation and insert opportunities to learn that are motivating. 

So, autism is a social motivation impairment that impacts the ability to learn typically, and ABA is a science of motivation and learning. The two fit together perfectly!

What does an ABA therapy session do, exactly?

Even when you understand the definition of ABA and why ABA is important, that still does not fully explain what ABA will look like in terms of behavioral science and autism. What will it look like in action?

ABA will assess your child’s motivation individually, determine what skills they are missing that will allow them to access social interaction and learning, determine what things they are doing that will create barriers to access social interaction and learning, and design a program that will increase and decrease the right things so that they can learn and socialize in a way that helps them make progress. 

Whew! That’s a lot.

Think of ABA as a two column approach: one column where you gain skills, sometimes called skill acquisition, and another column where you reduce problematic behaviors, sometimes called behavior reduction.

ABA will create a list of systematic skills that will be learned and plan a way to teach those, and another list of behaviors that need to be reduced or stopped so that learning can happen and the child is safe and successful in the world. In this way, behavioral science and autism go hand in hand.

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Behavioral science and autism: how to use ABA parenting science to help your child with autism

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