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Behavioural Therapy

What is Behavioural Therapy?

Behaviour therapy is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on changing undesirable behaviours. The therapy involves identifying objectionable, maladaptive behaviours and replacing them with a socially desirable, healthier and adaptive type of behaviours

Behaviour analysis was originally described by B.F. Skinner in 1930. You may have learned about Skinner and “operant conditioning” when you studied science in school. The principles and methods of behaviour analysis have been applied effectively in many circumstances to develop a wide range of skills in learners with and without disabilities.

What is Applied Behaviour Analysis?

Behaviour analysis is a scientific approach to understand behaviour and how it is affected by the environment. “Behaviour” refers to all kinds of actions and skills (not just misbehaviour) and “environment” includes all sorts of physical and social events that might change or be changed by one’s behaviour. The science of behaviour analysis focuses on principles (ie; general laws) about how behaviour works, or how learning takes place. For example, one principle of behaviour analysis is positive reinforcement. When behaviour is followed by something that is valued (a “reward”), that behaviour is likely to be repeated. Through decades of research, the field of behaviour analysis has developed many techniques to increase useful behaviours and reducing those that may be harmful or that interfere with learning. Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) includes techniques and principles to address socially important problems, and to bring about meaningful behaviour changes.

Applied Behaviour Analysis Therapy (ABA Therapy) consists of strategies and techniques that are designed for each child’s requirements. The techniques include Generalization (where the therapist takes what the child has learned in one setting and applies it to other settings to help them complete those tasks successfully), Behaviour Contracts (brief, three-part plans negotiated between the child and the ABA therapist listing the expected positive behaviour, what the applied behaviour analyst will do once the behaviour is done and by setting long-term rewards), Video Modeling (where children learn appropriate behaviours by watching others).  

ABA behaviour sessions include :

  1. Task analysis where complex activities are broken down into a series of small steps and taught until the child can complete the task without assistance and positive reinforcement is used to increase the likelihood that your child will continue to use these new skills in the future.
  2. Chaining – A series of activities are outlined by the therapist. The goal is always to teach the child to complete the entire chain as independently as possible.
  3. Prompting – ABA therapists may use errorless teaching with different types of prompts to help teach your child new skills. Mistakes are few and far between because children are given (verbal, visual or physical gestural) cues.
  4. Fading – When the child starts mastering a skill with the help of prompts, the prompts must be removed gradually as he or she moves towards independence.
  5. Shaping – Shaping reinforces attempts to complete a skill until the child can perform the action or skill independently.

Who Can Benefit from ABA?

ABA methods have been used successfully with many kinds of learners of all ages, with and without disabilities, in different settings. In the early 1960s, behaviour analysts began working with young children with autism and related disorders. Those pioneers used techniques in which adults directed most of the instruction, as well as some in which children took the lead. Since that time a variety of ABA techniques have been developed for building useful skills for learners with autism of all ages. Those techniques are used in both structured situations (such as formal instruction in classrooms) and in more “natural” everyday situations (such as during play or mealtime at home) and in 1-to-1 as well as group instruction. These techniques are used to develop basic skills like looking, listening and imitating, as well as complex skills like reading, conversing, and taking.

Use of ABA principles and techniques has expanded rapidly in recent years. ABA is used to help people with autism to live happily and productively. Today, ABA is widely recognized as a safe and effective treatment for autism. It has been endorsed by a number of state and federal agencies including US Surgeon General and New York State Department of Health.

Pivotal Response Training

The focus of the Pivotal Response Training is on ‘pivotal’ behaviour areas (motivation, response to multiple cues, initiation of social interactions and self management) of a child’s development which in turn produces improvements across other areas of social skills, communication and language skills, behaviour and learning. Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) is play-based and initiated by the child (i.e., the child makes choices that direct the therapy) and is conducted in the child’s natural environments like preschool, home or school. Jewel has an applied behaviour center for autism spectrum disorders that provides pivotal response treatment training for parents based on a focused pivotal response training manual. Applied Behaviour Analysis programs emphasise the role of parents as primary intervention agents. All the people involved in the child’s life are encouraged to use PRT methods consistently in every part of his or her life.