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The Success of Applied Behavior Analysis

 November 29, 2017

By  Deborah L Weiner Katz, OTR/L, CCM, CLCP

Between autism and dementia, the full range of the behavioral spectrum is well covered. Organizational function, skill deficits and problem behavior are symptomatic of both conditions. All can be improved with the application of applied behavior analysis (ABA). Even areas of human behavior such as health and exercise, substance abuse, and staff management/performance respond favorably to this new form of therapy.

So what is ABA?

Applied behavior analysis is the systematic approach of influencing socially important behaviors. It is intensive one-on-one therapy, requiring as much as 40 hours a week. Individualized programs are created by certified behavior analysts, which address specific skill deficits, such as delayed language or classroom readiness. Long-term goals and necessary life skills are broken down into small, achievable steps. The analyst reinforces the completion of each step and gathers data. Progress with skills and behavior are tracked regularly.

Which behaviors are targeted for improvement?

Organizational function is one area of human behavior that ABA is applied to. In fact, organizational behavior management (OBM) is a form of applied behavior analysis. It is similar to human resources management but focuses more on psychology and systems theory. The goal is still to improve the safety, management, training, and performance of workers.

ABA has also gained popular recognition for progress in the study of dementia. It is also considered the gold standard when it comes to treating autism. The therapy has even met with success in the rehabilitation of traumatic brain injuries.

Assisting those who suffer from traumatic brain injuries often involves struggling with skill deficits, in terms of communication or toilet use. Dementia can cause aggression, self-harming and other problem behaviors. Autism’s range of behavioral challenges is well-noted but ABA, to date, is the most researched, evidence-based treatment available.

What are some specific applications of ABA?

These improvements are achieved by modifying the environment in which the behavior takes place, and teaching alternative skills. Here are some specific applications:

  • Public healthBehavior analysts are responsible for the “wash your hands” signs in bathrooms. They make sure they are visible from both the door and the sink. The result is a dramatic increase in the number of individuals who will clean up.
  • Business settings – Pay structure is a typical target for behavior analysts. They might suggest instituting bonuses for better accuracy and increased efficiency.
  • Nursing homes – ABA specialists have been a positive force in the lives of nursing home residents. Dementia patients who suffer from visual distortions may mistake a white, square napkin for a piece of toast. Analysts prevent this by replacing those napkins with colored, patterned ones. One study found that 80 percent of a nursing home’s residents who had been incontinent became continent after receiving ABA treatment.

If you have any questions about ABA treatment or wish to discuss its successes with autism, dementia and traumatic brain injury, please contact us today.

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