ABA Therapy: Pros & Cons
Since going public with Jackson’s diagnosis & our families journey, I’ve collided paths with LOADS of parents on the the beginning of their very similar journey with their kid. One of the most popular questions I get from these parents is “Do you feel ABA therapy is helping your child?” & without hesitation, I say “YES!” because I believe it is. I know it is!
But then I have to consider, why are they asking this in the first place? Is there an idea that ABA is bad for kids? Clearly, this parent is at the very least concerned for their kid & is looking into options but wants to do their research which I totally get but did I miss something in the beginning?? Apparently so. So here, I’d like to address the controversial concerns parents may have with Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy as well as the intended positive outcomes.
To be clear, ABA therapy is the science of learning & behavior. It’s the #1 recommended therapy for children on the Autism Spectrum. It’s supposed to help with social skills & communication but parents are afraid it prevents their kid from being them. Which in a sense, they aren’t wrong. If that’s concern, I would then question what’s your reasoning for considering ABA therapy in the first place. However, ABA isn’t meant to change them in a bad way. It’s not make them into a cookie cutter of a person. It’s meant to figure out their way of learning & improve independent living skills.
IT’S LIKE TEACHING A DOG TRICKS
Alright - hitting the most common one out the gate. This goes back to the origination of ABA Therapy years ago. When the concept of the therapy was to be extremely strict & follow a specific guideline. The point isn’t to teach your kid how to be a mindless robot who can’t think for themselves. The foundation is to help them understand the reason behind an action or behavior so they can be more independent.
IT TRIES TO CURE AUTISM
Some people / parents go forward with ABA for their kids BECAUSE they think it’ll cure them. I’m here to say flat out - there is no cure for Autism. No amount of therapy, medication or prayer will make it go away. My issue with this concept specifically is the parent being under the impression that there’s something wrong. To then inflict that same mindset on the kid or person is more detrimental than no therapy at all, in my opinion.
‘WHY WOULD I CHANGE MY CHILD?’
For the record, ABA isn’t meant to ‘change’ or alter anyone for the worse. Technically, it’s not meant to change. If anything it’s to regulate. Autism behavior like stimming is meant to self-regulate. Some are under the impression that therapists correct or don’t allow different ways of stimming which isn’t necessarily the case. As the parent of a kid with Autism, I don’t want him to change in any facet of the word. However, I do want him to have any opportunities to move forward in life without having the additional attention that some stimming may bring. His head shaking, recent obsession with lining thing up & side-eyes help him personally but others may not see it that way. ABA helps with regulating it, not changing them.
Also, some take this as a direct hit at their parenting. Like they didn’t do enough to ‘prevent’ Autism from getting their child. I’m also here to say that’s not the case. You didn’t fail as a parent & this isn’t an attack on your parenting. If anything, this is GREAT parenting BECAUSE you’re doing what’s necessary to help your child succeed.
IMPROVES INDEPENDENT LIVING SKILLS
This one goes hand in hand with OT [Occupational Therapy] but learning how to do the daily things we take for granted are crucial. I’ll never forget that Jackson didn’t understand the simple concept of stacking blocks until MONTHS after starting therapy. Things like eating with utensils, putting on shoes or even making eye contact are things we had to teach Jackson & it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of ABA.
HELPS PARENTS & TEACHERS
Through ABA therapy, parents & teachers can learn the best ways to not only communicate with kids with Autism but also how to help them learn & achieve their goals. With IFSP’s & IEP’s in place, there are guidelines & programs tailored to each kid to help them succeed. We are extremely lucky that everyone on Jackson’s team [past & present] have been fully on board with helping him succeed. There we all celebrate his wins & adjust his programs where we see fit if something isn’t working. We all understand that he is the main goal.
ABA Therapy has been around since the 70’s but that doesn’t make it promising by default. What makes it credible is it being an evidence based intervention, early intervention for some like Jackson. The strategies used have been developed, tested & logged for the spectrum it’s to be used on today.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
ABA THERAPY ISN’T THE SAME AS IT WAS WHEN IT WAS DEVELOPED
Like I said, it’s been around for decades & like anything that’s been around that long, it’s gone through developments. The general practice has remained the same as far as helping people with Autism live on their own. The lessons taught & learned during sessions are now general & basic enough to be applied outside of sessions in the real world. It’s also now understood that [or at least to some] that not all people with Autism are the same. Much like neurotypicals, we all have different personalities. Apply that same concept to Autism - ta da! Creating a program that teaches something in 1 specific way just doesn’t work so now things are considered like age, location, structure, sensory, etc are taken into account. So now, many options are tried before sticking with one & forcing it to work.
WHAT IS YOUR REASONING FOR WANTING THERAPY IN THE FIRST PLACE?
When we first got Jackson’s diagnosis, ABA Therapy was recommended as part of his early intervention. At the time, & honestly up until maybe a month ago, I didn’t know of any negative perception of ABA Therapy. As we know, I do my research & immediately started looking up companies in the area for us to work with, as well as their reviews. For us, we moved forward with ABA therapy because we were told how much it benefits people with Autism. After doing my own research, it was a no brainer.
Bottom line, I’m extremely glad we’ve moved forward with ABA Therapy & I encourage all families to. However, keep in mind that not all companies & therapists aren’t the same. Ask ALL the questions & stand in on all the sessions you wish to. We’re very lucky to have established a very open relationship with our company & therapists. To this day, I’ll still sit in on some sessions & ask why they’re working on this or how this helps that. ASKING QUESTIONS IS ENCOURAGED. I hope this helps a parent make the decision to move forward with any therapy you see fit for your child or self. Again, it’s not meant to hurt or change anyone. Simply regulate & help.