5 Advantages of Starting Applied Behavior Analysis At a Young Age
If you have a child with autism, you’ve done your best to make sure that you’ve given them the tools they need to function in a neurotypical world. One program you may or may not be familiar with is applied behavior analysis, which is effective in increasing skill acquisition and decreasing maladaptive behavior even at younger ages.
ABA therapy, as it’s also known, helps children with autism become more independent by teaching them how to be comfortable and successful in social situations. It also aids daily routines including hygiene that children with autism often struggle with. In addition to promoting healthy behaviors and ways for individuals with autism to improve their quality of life, ABA helps reduce the maladaptive behaviors that sometimes manifest.
What Age Should Your Child Start ABA Therapy?
Applied behavior analysis is based on the scientific evidence behind learning and motivation. By reinforcing functional behavior and not reinforcing maladaptive behavior, children with autism learn how to succeed in a world that isn’t always designed for their needs. ABA is considered the gold standard in autism programs by the US Surgeon General as well as the American Psychological Association.
In ABA therapy, your child will learn social and communications skills, as well as fine motor skills for dexterity, and activities of daily living, as well as learn alternative, more functional, communication or coping skills to replace potential maladaptive behaviors.
Some of the behaviors that ABA therapy teaches are the ability to listen to instructions, make eye contact, stay seated in appropriate settings, focus on the task in front of them, and so on. Children can learn to be more receptive to new experiences and new concepts.
As you can see, ABA therapy can benefit anyone. That includes children with autism who have been described as “high-functioning”. Applied behavioral analysis often leads to better, more objective outcomes than the “play therapy” that’s often recommended for them.
The earlier your child can start, the better. Ideally, you’d start as soon as your child was diagnosed with autism or a developmental disorder. Research shows the biggest gains occur for children who start before age 2, and getting started before age 3 is recommended.
Having said that, applied behavioral analysis works for individuals with autism at all ages. If your child is past toddlerhood, they can still benefit from the therapy. An ABA therapist will assess your child and determine the best intervention plan to proceed.
5 Benefits of Starting ABA Therapy at a Young Age
In addition to being most beneficial at a younger age, applied behavioral analysis helps the most when your child has one-to-one therapy for about 30 hours a week. That’s a lot, and in some areas can be costly, but there are significant benefits for your child when they start the therapy early.
1. Reduce maladaptive behaviors before they become a habit
The more a child is able to engage in challenging behaviors without intervention, the more the behaviors are ingrained. It’s a lot harder to change a maladaptive behavior that’s already been reinforced than it is to change it early on before it becomes stronger. When it comes to maladaptive behaviors, the best time to intervene for all children, not just ones with autism, is today.
2. Get more out of school
If your child is able to learn some of these behavioral and social skills early on, before school starts, they’ll have a better handle on it by the time they get to school. Instead of spending time in school working on the behaviors, they’ll be able to engage more with learning and their classmates. Your child will still likely be working with ABA therapy while they’re in school, but they’ll be learning more advanced skills than if they don’t get started on the therapy early.
3. Make friends
Humans are social animals, and strong bonds help people weather the storms of life. You won’t always be there for your child, so it’s critical that they learn the skills necessary to make friends. As you know, one of the manifestations of autism is difficulty making social connections, so it’s very important that children with autism learn the tools they need for friends.
The earlier your child learns how to make social connections, the more they’ll be able to use those skills, especially in school. Developmentally, making friends is a key ingredient for a good childhood, and the earlier they can start the easier their lives will be.
4. Prepare for the real world
ABA therapy helps children with autism get through childhood and learn practical things they’ll need to know later in life. Building a solid foundation early on helps prevent them from falling too far behind their peers so that they’re able to cope with the real world in a more developmentally appropriate way. It increases the chance that they’ll be able to function independently later in life. The longer they’re in therapy, the more prepared they’ll be for whatever life throws their way.
5. Teaches you how to best support your child with autism
While raising any child can be difficult, parents of neurodivergent kids have an especially hard road ahead of them. Not only does ABA therapy help your child, but you will learn how to better cope with obstacles that arise. You’ll be able to help them become more independent, and the therapists can answer the questions that you’ll have.
Having resources to navigate life with a child with autism when they’re younger means that you’re better able to advocate for them and reinforce the therapy they’re receiving. They’ll probably have fewer meltdowns and problem behaviors when you’re able to address them early, so your life can be calmer too.
Learn How to Sign Your Child Up for ABA Therapy at Cardinal Center for Behavior Analysis
Fortunately, you may be able to find ABA therapy near you at the Cardinal Center. Our centers are located in North Carolina and Arizona. We specialize in creating a learning environment for autistic children that’s positive and engaging, and where you can also learn how best to support your child. We’ll reward good behaviors and isolate the bad ones so your child learns the skills they need.
We offer one-on-one individual therapy as well as small group therapies where children can interact with peers. Call us today at (919) 822-8802 to see if applied behavioral analysis is right for your child and get started.
Having a Conversation About Attending ABA Therapy
If your child has already been diagnosed with autism or a developmental disorder, it’s time to talk to professionals and determine whether applied behavioral analysis is the right way to go forward. As a parent, you’re a key factor in your child’s development. Now that you know how beneficial ABA therapy can be, you can start looking for treatment professionals to discuss it with you.
While ABA therapy can be demanding for your child, it’s critical that you follow the guidelines as well. As an example, if teachers and therapists require your child to ask for their own food as a way to develop their communication skills, you can’t jump in and give them food without them asking for it, or you’ll slow down the learning process for that skill. Consistency is key.
That’s true even for younger children. If you’re able to find ABA therapy for your child with autism sooner rather than later, you can both practice the skills you need for them to function in the world. But don’t despair if your child is older than 2 or 3, because the therapy is hugely beneficial with older children too.
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