Autism Behavior Therapy

by Sam Malone


Behavior means the response of an organism to an external stimulus. This stimulus can be administered by another organism or by the environment. Autistic children exhibit behavior that is different from normal children. Many autistic children seem disengaged from their environment and therefore seem to lack in many behavioral aspects.

Behavioral therapy for autism is one of the keystones of autism treatment, and success rates are very high when autism behavior therapy is started at a young age.

Applied Behavior Analysis and Autism

Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) is a new science that involves using behavioral therapy to modify behavior. It is simply the means of analyzing the rules by which a person adapts and maintains behavior.

There are two main concepts in ABA, which are measuring and analyzing behavior.

Measuring behavior involves the following steps:

  • Counting how many times a specific behavior occurs
  • Duration of such behavior
  • Specific time of occurrence of such behavior

Analyzing Behavior: This Is what the therapist does based on data obtained by measuring behavior. This will help the therapist in drawing up a treatment plan for the individual.

Behavioral Therapy for Children with Autism

Behavioral therapy relies on something called conditioning. The corner stone of behavioral therapy is classical and operant conditioning.

Classical Conditioning: Classical conditioning is the process by which an organism can be conditioned to exhibit a certain response when induced with a certain stimulus. The best known example for classical conditioning is the Pavlov experiment, where bells were rung when dogs were fed with food. Over time, the dogs started salivating whenever they heard a bell ring.

Operant Conditioning: Operant conditioning is a variation of the classical conditioning process, where reward and punishment is used to reinforce the desired response. This can be of different types which are listed below.

  • Positive Reinforcement - Rewarding when the desired response is exhibited.
  • Positive Punishment - Punishing when the desired result is not exhibited.
  • Negative Reinforcement - Where an aversive stimulant is removed when the desired response is exhibited. For example, playing a loud noise that is stopped when the desired response is exhibited.
  • Negative Punishment - Where a stimulus is removed following an undesired behavior.

When it comes to autistic children, a combination of all these conditioning processes are used to induce desired behavior. Although these are the basic steps involved in behavioral therapy for autism, a lot depends on the skill of the therapist. Different people respond differently to different kinds of conditioning and the skill of the therapist lies in finding out which kind of conditioning elicits the best response.

References:

  1. www.genome.gov/25522099

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