What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a diverse group of neurodevelopmental conditions characterized by impairments in language development, social interactions, excessive repetitive behaviors, and restricted interests or an atypical need for “sameness” in regard to the pattern of behaviors or interests as described by the World Health Organization (WHO, 2023). According to the World Health Organization, ASD is a heterogeneous disorder in the manner that it includes a large array of symptoms or conditions and affects the individuals diagnosed with ASD quite differently. This can include individuals who can learn to live independently, while more severe cases can require life-long support and negatively impact educational advancement and employment growth. According to the World Health Organization, characteristics of ASD can begin to manifest in early development but there is a latency until diagnosis and current epidemiology suggests that 1 in 100 children has autism with a prevalence perhaps higher than estimated (Zeidan et al, 2022). Diagnosis usually occurs between 18-24 months of age when the various symptoms can be directly observed and compared to normative developmental milestones (Zeidan et al, 2022). The World Health Organization reports that with the diagnosis of ASD, there is an association with elevated challenging, or problem, behaviors that can range from tantrums, self-injurious behavior, physical aggression, and sleep problems. As a result, it is suggested that early intervention of evidence-based treatments can help mitigate the occurrences of these challenging behaviors, improve communication effectively, and interact socially with the goal of improving the quality of life of the individual diagnosed with ASD and the surrounding caretakers providing for these individuals.
What is ABA Therapy?
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a science devoted to understanding and improving human behavior (Cooper et al, 2019). ABA is a therapeutic model that uses scientific principles and methodology to evaluate the functional relationships between behaviors and the environmental variables that influence those behaviors and provides treatment to reduce the challenging behaviors by replacing them with the appropriate developmental skills needed to increase independence and quality of life. Simply, ABA is a direct and individualized treatment of care that utilizes research-based strategies to ethically improve the lives of individuals diagnosed with ASD and their caretakers. Comprehensive diagnostic evaluation, ABA, and ABA schools can provide an interconnected system of care, diverse and individualistic, that understands and supports individuals with ASD.
- Applied Behavior Analysis
ABA as a field is derived from behaviorism, which was a response to the other fields of psychology in the early 1900s which was more focused on internal states of consciousness and introspection and struggling to gain acceptance in the scientific community as a “hard science” such as chemistry, physics, and biology. The philosophy of behaviorism has evolved over the years, but it is rooted in the understanding that environmental variables influence behaviors often seen by others and uses a more rigorous scientific approach to impact behaviors by modifying its relationship to those environmental variables. As such, ABA is reportedly one of the most evidence-based and effective treatments for autism (Pennington, 2022) Therapists known as Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) are trained professionals who study behaviors and their functional relationships to environmental variables (Behavior Analysis Certification Board, 2020). BCBAs create and implement conceptual systematic behavioral analytic treatments that will reduce problem behaviors and increase socially acceptable and developmentally important social skills to replace the problem behaviors.
- Core Principles
- Individualization: As the relationship between behaviors and the environment is unique to each individual, ABA tailors interventions to the specific needs of the individual rather than stock treatment plans. This is established through assessments conducted by therapists to identify target behaviors and create individualized treatment plans.
- Functional Analysis: The assessments are known as functional behavior assessments which guide treatment plans by identifying the underlying environmental reasons for challenging behaviors and addressing that influence directly through analysis and intervention.
- Behavioral Objectivity: To be scientifically sound, ABA practitioners make data-driven decisions and thus behaviors must be discrete, observable, and measurable with a direct functional relationship to an environmental variable that is equally discrete and observable.
- Data Collection: As behaviors must be observable and objective in nature in order to be quantified, data collection of these behaviors is an important and fundamental part of treatment. This allows for direct observation of progress and functional control of intervention and ensures data-driven decisions and adjustments in the analysis by the BCBA.
- Positive Reinforcement: Positive reinforcement refers to techniques to encourage desired and appropriate behaviors by rewarding, or reinforcing, individuals with ASD when they engage in these behaviors. These techniques help assist in mitigating and moving away from typical negative consequences or punishments found outside of therapy and often in other environments.
- Generalization: Generalization is the increase of the desired and appropriate skills becoming present across various settings and situations without the need for problems of behaviors exhibited by the individual with ASD. This is socially valid and meaningful learning that promotes independence and the quality of life for the individual and his or her caretakers.
- Discrete Trial Training (DTT): DTT is otherwise known as direct 1:1 teaching and learning opportunities designed by teaching complex skills in smaller and discrete teachable units that are manageable and with quicker access to structured contingent positive reinforcement.
- Naturalistic Environmental Teaching: Learning opportunities now become incorporated into daily life activities and situations which teaches contextual application of skills with relevant and naturally existing positive reinforcement.
- Verbal Behavior Analysis: Functional communication training allows the individual with ASD to acquire and apply language and communication skills, regardless of barriers, to help assist natural and social situations and minimize problem behaviors.
- Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT): PRT targets the acquiring of pivotal behaviors which are behaviors that can help with the generalization of untrained skills and behaviors, to promote overall development across different situations and environments.
- Effectiveness of ABA Therapy
- Research literature consistently supports the effectiveness of ABA therapy as an evidence-based treatment for individuals with autism. Improved outcomes include language and communication skills, social interaction, self-care and safety, and academic skills or opportunities. Outcomes tend to improve statistically the earlier ABA is implemented.
- Challenges and Criticisms
- Critics argue that structured and compliance-based teaching may potentially be a negative experience for the individual with ASD. The BACB ethical guidelines (Behavior Analysis Certification Board, 2020) directly respond to these well-intentioned concerns by providing importance to the ethically-based decision that is centered on the consent and assent of the individual with autism. Moreover, active communication among practitioners in the field, and in communication with those in the ASD community, have focused on promoting individual autonomy and decision-making for the individuals with ASD in therapy participation.
- Core Principles
What is Koalafied ABA Services?
KOALAFIEDTM isn’t just a word we trademarked. It is our unique behavioral modification technique rooted in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Developed by our founding Father, and expertly crafted to analyze and modify behavior, it has shown remarkable effectiveness, especially for children with autism and developmental disabilities. With a KOALAFIEDTM therapist, our client gains a positive and structured environment for learning and growth. Embrace the transformative power of our approach, providing our clients with the support they need to thrive.
Research and patient testimonials show this method of treatment significantly improves the lives of people living with Autism, ADHD, and other diagnosis. Here are some examples of the diagnosis our KOALAFIED method treats;
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (Autism)
- Behavior Addiction Disorder
- Learning Disorder
- Anxiety Disorder