AutismSTEP Singapore : 4 Types of ABA Therapy Sessions
Therapy may not always be therapeutic if it’s not addressed to the right individuals. This is why therapy comes in many forms. In Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA), treatment can be arranged in different settings—each with their own strengths and drawbacks. This is what we want to flesh out in this blog.
At AutismSTEP Singapore, we prefer certain set-ups but we also want you to know the options available to you. We hope that the knowledge you will gain can help you in making your decision as you seek the right interventions for your child.
ABA is Effective
Before we discuss what to expect in ABA sessions, let’s understand why ABA therapy is important.
ABA is the leading evidence-based therapy for autism spectrum disorder. It is known as the best practice treatment for autism as recommended by the American Psychiatric Association. The interventions used have been studied through extensive and credible scientific research. This revealed that ABA is effective in helping children with autism in a variety of ways from reducing challenging behaviours, improving self-care and life skills, and supporting the child’s social and communication skills to help them improve their overall quality of life.
Basically, the purpose of ABA therapy is to change behaviours by either increasing or decreasing specified target behaviours. The role of an ABA therapist or BCBA is to observe the child in multiple environments.
In this blog, we will look into the different environments a child can be subjected to during therapy. We will discuss how individual therapy, group-based therapy, home-based therapy, and centre-based therapy play a role in ABA therapy.
As the name suggests, individual therapy is delivered in a one-on-one environment. With the focus of each session set only on one child, interventions can be tailored to him or her. Activities can be matched according to the child’s developmental stage and special needs. Such an arrangement allows the ABA therapist to be more thorough in understanding the specific challenges that a child has.
In addition, individual sessions give the child more opportunities to interact with the therapist than in group interventions. It can enhance expressive language, be it in words or actions.
Furthermore, sessions can also be catered to the child’s pace. So it can be sped up if a child can handle more focused and intense interventions, or it can be slowed down if clients need time to adjust.
Individual sessions are also convenient because these can be arranged at a time that is most conducive to your child’s schedule. It can even be arranged rather quickly, if needed.
Group Based Therapy
A group intervention is delivered as a uniform programme for an entire group of children. This approach gives the child an opportunity to engage with other children in a group setting.
Group interventions allow children to learn the group’s rules and develop social skills. It provides opportunities for them to learn adaptive behaviours by participating in group activities. Since it is conducted with a large group, it is more efficient and cost-effective than an individual group session.
In a group setting, parents also get to meet other parents, which can lead to peer support and information sharing.
There are also certain drawbacks with therapy done in a communal setting. As they say, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”. The same can be said for larger groups because the level of intervention may not be the same or as intense for each child in an individual therapy.
A behavioural therapist will be responsible for everyone in the group, taking data on each child, and managing a multitude of variables. Hence there’s more to oversee.
A group therapy also has to be set at specific times for everyone to follow. It’s possible that there may be less opportunity to fit it into one’s personal schedule.
One of the disadvantages of a group setting is that a child may learn negative behaviours from other children. Based on the research done by psychologist Albert Bandura, there is what we call observational learning. Children learn and imitate behaviours by watching and listening to others. He and others have demonstrated that humans have a natural inclination to engage in observational learning.
A group setting may widen a child’s social skill, but it may take away some of the focus. So it pays to know your child’s needs, their level of development, and the change you want them to achieve to know if a group therapy is the way to go.
Children with autism can also participate in a center-based ABA program. These sessions can take place in the school, community, and in a more exclusive clinical environment for one-on-one therapy.
Centre-based therapies can be effective because they provide structure and control. While these are possible in a home setting, therapists can also enforce a structured routine in a centre-based setting by controlling the environment and distractions. They can even create mock situations to teach skills such as taking turns, paying attention, and following instructions. As these skills are enforced, the child can also familiarize with the environment and routine of specific tasks.
However, there are also limitations to centre-based therapies. The targeted behaviours that parents seek help for are often specific to the home, hence it may not be addressed with centre-based interventions. It is common for children’s behaviour to vary in different environments. These changes in behaviour are particularly obvious in environments outside of the home, especially among children with learning difficulties, autism, ADHD, anxiety, social difficulties, etc. Therefore, the problem behaviour the child exhibits at home may not be observed when they are out of their comfort zones.
Home Based Therapy
Centre-based settings are developed to target behaviours within those settings, while home-based ABA
interventions are typically used within the home. But the skills developed can also be applied to other settings.
ABA therapy that is designed for the home allows skills to be targeted in their most natural environment in which they are most likely to occur. For instance, the program can help a child clean up toys in their playroom or perform basic self-care tasks (e.g. eating, bathing, hygiene). These are developed using items and circumstances that the child is most likely exposed to everyday. Even social skills can be honed with siblings using games that are already owned by the family.
AutismSTEP Singapore stands by this model because it allows children to learn skills where they feel comfortable and secure. Home-based learning is beneficial for those children who consistently fail to respond safely around other children and need a more controlled environment with less unpredictable factors to deal with. ABA therapies may be most effective when taught in a natural environment instead of a simulated one.
In-home therapy also facilitates parent or caregiver training, which is a necessary component of any ABA program. This arrangement provides better and more opportunities for parent and caregiver training. It helps reinforce the ABA interventions and increase the chances that the child will maintain the desired behaviour.
Depending on the needs of the child, the parent, and the availability of the applied behaviour analyst, in-home ABA services can replace or complement center-based interventions.
How will you know which is the better option?
These 4 ABA programs each have their pros and cons, and in between, there is always a hybrid option to consider. There are various options to help children grow and develop. Regardless of what path you choose to take for your child’s treatment, it’s crucial that you choose a reputable company that has certified ABA therapists and BCBAs on board. ABA therapy can do wonders if experts are at the wheel and the team working with the child is consistent and persistent.
If you’re keen to know about our home-based individual therapy, you can call us so we can discuss our programme with you. AutismSTEP Singapore offers a customised therapy session. Get in touch with our team today and see how we can help your child move forward.