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Table of contents:

  1. Understanding The Basics of ABA Therapy
  2. What Should Be The Next Steps After a Diagnosis
  3. Benefits of ABA Therapy 
  4. Things to Watch Out for When Starting ABA Therapy
  5. 3 Must-Know Tips for Parents of Children Receiving ABA Therapy
  6. Potential Consequences of Not Using ABA Therapy
  7. Importance of Having a Team in Place

Key Takeaway:

Understanding ABA Therapy:

  • ABA therapy is a structured and individualized, evidence-based approach aimed at improving specific behaviors and skills in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
  • ABA involves conducting assessments, creating individualized goals, , implementing interventions, and collecting and assessing data frequently to measure progress. Techniques such as Positive Reinforcement, Discrete Trial Training (DTT), Natural Environment Training (NET), and Pivotal Response Training (PRT) are commonly used in ABA therapy.

Next Steps After Diagnosis:

  • Understand your child’s diagnosis and which behavioral analytic services are best suited for your family.
  • Seek professional guidance from a neurologist, developmental pediatricians, psychologists, or Board-Certified Behavior Analysts develop a comprehensive intervention plan.
  • Create a support network of families, support groups, and organizations dedicated to autism. This network is not just a resource but a lifeline, providing emotional support, practical advice, and a sense of community. Staying organized with detailed records of your child's assessments, therapy sessions, and progress is important, but having a support network in place is equally crucial.

Benefits of ABA Therapy:

  • ABA therapy can help improve communication skills through verbal language, sign language, or communication devices as well as increasing social skills such as interacting with others. Additionally, ABA therapy can help decrease unwanted challenging behaviors such as self-injury, aggression, and property disruption.
  • Benefits of ABA Therapy: Improving Communication and Social Skills while Reducing Problematic Behaviors. ABA can be integrated into educational and home settings to support and generalize learning and academic achievement. Additionally, ABA therapy can  empowers families with strategies to support their child's development.

1. Understanding The Basics of ABA Therapy

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is a widely recognized and evidence-based approach used primarily to support individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ABA therapy focuses on improving specific behaviors such as communication, social skills and adaptive learning skills (e.g., hygiene, grooming, and domestic capabilities) while also decreasing unwanted behaviors such as self-injurious behaviors, aggression, property disruption, and elopement.

ABA therapy is based on behaviorism (i.e., the science of learning human behavior). ABA therapy emphasizes on understanding the conditions in which behaviors occur. The core components of ABA therapy include:

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The first step involves assessing the child's behavior and environment to understand the specific challenges and needs. Comprehensive assessments include interviews with parents, direct observation, and standardized tests to gather information about the child's strengths and areas for improvement.

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Goal Setting:

Specific and measurable goals are set based on the assessments conducted. These goals are tailored to the individual's needs, from improving social interactions to developing daily living skills. Goals are typically broken down into smaller, manageable steps to facilitate learning and progress.

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This is the implementation phase, during which Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) or Behavioral Therapists use techniques to teach new skills and reduce problematic behaviors. Standard techniques include positive reinforcement, discrete trial training (DTT), natural environment teaching (NET), task analyses, and prompting. Interventions are highly individualized, considering the child's preferences, strengths, and areas of interest.

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Data Collection:

Progress is meticulously tracked through data collection, which helps evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention and make necessary adjustments. Data are collected continuously to monitor the child's response to the intervention and make data-driven decisions.

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ABA therapy can be intensive, often requiring several hours of therapy each week (e.g., 20-40 hours), however, its structured approach has shown significant improvements in many individuals with ASD for decades. The intensity and duration of therapeutic services are tailored to the individual's needs, ensuring they receive the appropriate level of support to promote best possible outcomes..

ABA therapy involves various techniques and strategies, including:

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Discrete Trial Training (DTT):

This technique breaks down skills into small, "discrete" components. Each trial or step is taught individually, using prompts and positive reinforcement. DTT often teaches foundational skills such as eye contact, imitation, and following instructions.

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Natural Environment Training (NET):

NET focuses on teaching skills in the natural environment, such as at home or in the community, rather than in a structured therapy setting. This approach helps children generalize skills across different settings and situations.

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Pivotal Response Training (PRT):

PRT targets "pivotal" areas of a child's development, such as motivation and response to multiple cues, to produce broad improvements in other areas. It is child-directed and uses play-based activities to promote learning and engagement.

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Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA):  

FBA involves identifying problematic behaviors, underlying causes, and functions. By understanding the reasons behind these behaviors, analysts can develop more effective interventions= to address and reduce them.

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2. What Should Be the Next Steps After a Diagnosis?

Receiving an autism diagnosis can be overwhelming for families; however, taking the proper steps after a diagnosis is crucial for your child’s development, progress, and well-being. Here are some key steps to consider:

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Educate Yourself:

Delve into the world of autism and the various therapies available. This knowledge will equip you with the necessary information and empower you to make informed decisions. Numerous resources, including books, websites, and support groups, can provide valuable information about autism and ABA therapy, giving you the confidence to navigate this journey.

When looking into ABA providers identify one that suits your family best (e.g., in home, center-based, or in schools). Additionally, ensure that your child will be assigned to a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst or Board-Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst as soon as possible to work with you to target goals that are most important. All goals and interventions plans will be conducted and provided by a behavior technician (ensure that they are a Registered Behavior Technician as this is a certified position).

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Seek Professional Guidance:

Contact a neurologist, developmental pediatrician, psychologist, or Board-Certified Behavior Analyst to discuss your child's best course of action. action. These professionals can provide valuable insights and recommendations based on your child's abilities, offering you the reassurance and support you need.

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Create a Support Network:

Connect with other families, support groups, and organizations dedicated to autism. This network can provide valuable insights, emotional support, and practical advice. Many communities have local autism support groups where you can meet other families and share experiences.

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Develop a Plan:

Work with professionals to develop a comprehensive intervention plan tailored to your child's needs. This plan should include ABA therapy and other necessary services, such as speech or occupational therapy. It should also outline specific goals, strategies, and timelines for achieving them.

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Stay Organized:

Keep detailed records of your child's diagnosis, assessments, therapy sessions, and progress. This will be essential for tracking development and communicating with professionals. Maintaining a well-organized binder or digital file can help you keep track of important documents and information.

In addition to these steps, it's essential to address the emotional impact of the diagnosis on the family. It's natural to experience a range of emotions, including shock, sadness, and even relief. Seeking support from a counselor or therapist specializing in working with families affected by autism can be beneficial. Professionals can provide coping strategies and emotional support as you navigate the journey.

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3. Benefits of ABA Therapy

ABA therapy offers numerous benefits for individuals with autism and their families, bringing a ray of hope to your journey. Some of the most significant benefits include:

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Improved Communication Skills:

ABA therapy helps individuals develop practical communication skills, either through verbal language, sign language, or communication devices. These skills include teaching children how to express their needs and wants, understand and using language appropriately, and engage in meaningful conversations.

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Enhanced Social Skills:

Through structured interactions, individuals learn to engage appropriately with peers and adults, which can significantly improve social interactions and relationships. Social skills training may teach children how to initiate and maintain conversations, take turns, play cooperatively, and respond to social cues.

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Increased Independence:

ABA therapy enables individuals to become more independent in their daily routines by teaching daily living skills, such as dressing, grooming, eating, and managing personal hygiene.

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Reduction in Problematic Behaviors:

ABA techniques can effectively reduce behaviors such as aggression, self-injury, and tantrums, leading to a more harmonious home environment. Therapists use positive reinforcement and other strategies to encourage appropriate behaviors and reduce challenges.

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Academic Success:

ABA can be integrated into educational settings to support learning and academic achievement. Therapists can work with teachers to generalize the skills learned in a school environment and also assist with creating individualized education plans (IEPs) that address the child's unique needs and promote academic success.

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Family Empowerment:

ABA therapy provides families with strategies and tools to support their child's development. Parents and caregivers are trained to implement ABA techniques at home, creating a consistent and supportive environment for the child.

One of the critical strengths of ABA therapy is its flexibility, adaptability, and individuality. ABA programs can be tailored to meet each individual's unique needs and goals, ensuring the therapy is relevant and practical. Additionally, ABA therapy is supported by a substantial body of research demonstrating its effectiveness in improving a wide range of skills and behaviors in individuals with autism.

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4. Things to Watch Out for When Starting ABA Therapy

Starting ABA therapy is a significant step, but there are several factors parents should consider to ensure success:

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Analyst and Therapist Credentials:

Ensure that the analyst you are working with is Board Certified (either BCBA or BCaBA). Additionally, ensure that the therapist that has been assigned to your child is also certified (i.e., Registered Behavior Technician). Verify their qualifications via the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB.com) and ask for references or testimonials from other families.

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Individualized Approach:

ABA therapy should be tailored to individual needs. Avoid programs that use a one-size-fits-all approach ask your analyst to discuss the results of your child’s assessment that you understand how the interventions chosen are most appropriate for your child. A personalized treatment plan that addresses your child's strengths and challenges is essential for effective therapy.

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Consistency is key in ABA therapy. Ensure the therapy is applied consistently across different settings (e.g., home, school, centers), individuals (teachers, caregivers, family members), and activities (toys, games).

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Parental Involvement:

Active participation by parents is crucial. Be involved in the planning and implementation of the therapy. Attend training sessions, ask questions, and practice techniques at home to reinforce what your child is learning in therapy. Be sure to ask your child’s analyst how to implement interventions that are feasible and realistic for your family.

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Progress Monitoring:

Regularly review and monitor your child's progress. Ensure that the data that are being collected is used to adjust the intervention as needed. Ensure that your analyst is scheduling frequent meetings with you, as well as your child and their therapist to discuss progress, challenges, and any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.

Knowing potential challenges and obstacles is essential when starting ABA therapy. These can include:

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Behavioral Challenges:

Some children may initially resist the structured nature of ABA therapy or the demands of learning new skills. Being patient and persistent is essential, as well as working closely with the therapist to address any challenges.

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Time Commitment:

ABA therapy can be time-intensive, often requiring multiple hours of therapy each week (e.g., varying from 20-40 hours). Families must be prepared for the time commitment and ensure it fits into their daily routines and schedules.

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Financial Considerations:

ABA therapy can be expensive, and insurance coverage for ABA services varies. Families should explore all available funding options, including insurance, government programs, and grants, to help cover therapy costs.

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Therapist Turnover:

High turnover rates among therapists can disrupt the continuity of care and impact the child's progress. It's essential to find a stable and committed therapy team and address any concerns about turnover with the therapy provider.

5. (3) Must-Know Tips for Parents of Children Taking ABA Therapy

1. Customized Learning Approach:

Parental involvement is crucial in ABA therapy. Attend therapy sessions, ask questions, and learn the techniques being used so you can reinforce them at home. Your engagement helps create a consistent learning environment for your child. By actively participating in therapy, you can better understand your child's needs, track their progress, and provide valuable feedback to the therapy team.

2. Communicate Effectively:

Maintain open and regular communication with your child child's analyst, therapist, and educators. Share insights about your child's behavior and progress and discuss any concerns or observations you might have. Effective communication ensures everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals (i.e., the progress and well-being of your child). Establish a system for regular updates and meetings with the therapy team to discuss progress and any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.

3. Avoid Denial:

Acceptance of your child's diagnosis and needs is essential. Denial can delay critical interventions and hinder your child's progress. Embrace the journey, seek support when needed, and focus on your child's strengths and potential. It is crucial to acknowledge and address any feelings of Denial or grief you may have and to seek support from friends, family, or a professional counselor if needed.


Start ABA therapy early and get involved as much as you can. Learn the techniques the therapists use so you can reinforce them at home. Your consistency and active participation can make a huge difference in your child's progress.

6. Potential Consequences of Not Using ABA Therapy

While ABA therapy is not the only intervention for autism, ABA is a scientific and evidence-based approach that is endorsed by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, as well as the U.S Surgeon General. Additionally, ABA is considered the “gold standard” for treatment. Multiple studies have shown long-term positive outcomes from ABA interventions. Research has also shown that children diagnosed with ASD that do not receive ABA therapy, may have:  

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Delayed Developments:

Without proper intervention, children may experience delays in critical areas such as communication, social skills, and daily living activities. Early intervention is critical to helping children reach their full potential, and delays in starting therapy can result in missed opportunities for development.

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Increased Problematic Behaviors:

Without structured interventions, problematic behaviors such as aggression or self-injury may persist or worsen. ABA therapy provides strategies for addressing and reducing these behaviors, improving the child's quality of life and the overall family dynamic.

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Reduced Independence:

Lack of intervention can hinder the development of essential life skills, leading to increased dependence on caregivers. ABA therapy teaches children crucial daily living skills that promote independence and self-sufficiency.

Without appropriate intervention, children with autism may struggle to develop the skills and behaviors necessary for success in school, work, and social interactions. This can impact their ability to lead fulfilling and independent lives. Families must seek effective, evidence-based interventions like ABA therapy to support their child's development and well-being.

7. Importance of Having a Team in Place

Supporting a child with autism requires a collaborative effort from a team of professionals and family members. Here's why having a team in place is essential:

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Methodological Approach:

A multidisciplinary team can address various aspects of your child's development, including communication, behavior, and daily living skills. This team may include a developmental pediatrician, a BCBA, speech and occupational therapists, educators, and other specialists who can provide comprehensive support.

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Consistent Support:

Regular collaboration among team members ensures consistent and cohesive support for your child across different settings. Team members can share information, strategies, and progress updates, ensuring everyone is working towards the same goals.

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Expertise and Resources:

Each team member brings unique expertise and resources, enhancing the overall quality of care and intervention your child receives. For example, speech therapists can focus on communication skills, while occupational therapists can address sensory and motor challenges.

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Emotional Support for Families:

Having a team provides emotional support and reassurance for families, helping them navigate the challenges of raising a child with autism. Team members can offer guidance, encouragement, and practical advice, reducing feelings of isolation and stress.

A typical team might include a neurologist or developmental pediatrician, a BCBA, speech and occupational therapists, educators, and family members. Regular team meetings and communication are essential to ensure everyone is aligned and working towards the same goals. These meetings provide an opportunity to discuss progress, address any concerns, and make necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.

In addition to professional support, it's vital to build a network of friends, family members, and community resources that can provide additional support and assistance. This network can offer practical help, such as childcare or transportation, as well as emotional support and encouragement. Connecting with other families who have children with autism can also be valuable, as they can share experiences, advice, and resources.

Creating a solid support system and working collaboratively with a team of professionals can make a significant difference in the lives of children with autism and their families. By leveraging the expertise and resources of a multidisciplinary team, families can provide their children with the best possible support and opportunities for success. Another site to find valuable information is Autism Speaks

TheAutismVoyage blog is committed to sharing valuable information with our readers as well as practical insights and resources that can help families prepare for success, especially those with special needs.

About the Author(s)

Michael Pereira
After spending years in Corporate America, Michael was hit with COVID and suddenly realized the importance of having a plan that extended beyond just the usual Business Plans. This realization became even more significant when Michael's son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in 2022.

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