What is Behaviour Therapy?
Behaviour therapy is a broad term referring to psychotherapy, behaviour analytical, or a combination of the two therapies. Behaviour therapy breaks down into four disciplines: applied behaviour analysis (ABA), the Teaching Family Model (TFM), Positive Behavior Support (PBS) and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).
When a child has a disability or a delay, no matter what the severity, it can place very real stresses on both the child and the family. Sometimes children who are coping with a disability from early on in life can develop negative behavioral traits, such as aggressive behaviors (e.g. biting, hair-pulling, hitting, throwing things), episodes of out of control anger, poor tolerance or excessive frustration and/or self-injurious behaviors. Other children might develop what are referred to as “internalizing behaviors” characterized by things like social withdrawal, refusal to participate, somatic complaints or bowel issues. These negative behaviors may further impact the family’s quality of life and impede the progress of other therapies.
Behaviour therapy is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on reducing behavior problems and promoting adaptation skills. Behavioural therapy uses psychological techniques to improve physical, mental and communicative skills. The activities used vary greatly according to age and disability. Some techniques will be used to discourage destructive behavior, others to encourage self-sufficiency. Behaviour therapy can complement other therapies. For example, physical therapy by encouraging children to master tasks that promotes muscular and motor development. Praise, positive reinforcement and small rewards can encourage a child to learn to use weak limbs, overcome speech deficits and stop negative behaviors like hair pulling and biting. Sometimes this is called behaviour management or behaviour modification therapy.
Behaviour therapy is based on the simple concept of positive reinforcement for desired behaviors, consequences or planned ignoring for undesired behaviors.
General Behaviour Therapy
Some children by nature of their characteristics such as personality, tolerance of frustration, willingness to comply with parental requests are simply more challenging to parents. Children with conditions such of ADHD and anxiety can also present a challenge to parents. Parents may need guidance on how to support these children’s development while managing some of the difficult behaviors that may be occurring.
Parents may benefit from working one on one with a behavioural therapist. A behavioural therapist can help the family understand the factors that are contributing to their child’s behaviour, help the family pick specific behavioural challenges to target, and help the family design a program to address it including reinforcing what they want a child to do, planning to ignore certain behaviours in an effort to not reinforce the behaviour, and develop consequences for other behaviours. The behavioural therapist and parent may work together over a period of time to continue to target various behaviours. Similarly, with a parent’s permission, a school behavioural therapist might work with a teacher to help her understand what is driving a child’s behaviour and design a program to support the child in a positive way to develop more adaptive behaviors.
Applied Behaviour Analysis
ABA, applied behavioral analysis, is simply the application of behavioural principles, to everyday situations, that will, over time, increase or decrease targeted behaviors. ABA has been used to help children acquire many different skills, such as language skills, self-help skills, and play skills; in addition, these principles can help to decrease maladaptive behaviors such as aggression, self-stimulatory behaviors, and self-injury.
ABA is a discipline that employs objective data to drive decision-making about an individual’s program. That is, data is collected on responses made by the individual to determine if progress is being made or not; if there is no progress under a particular intervention, we need to reevaluate the program and change it so that the child begins to make progress.
The ABA theory identifies various teaching techniques that generally involve breaking down complex skills (or behaviours) into smaller steps and teaching them through the use of clear instructions, rewards and repetition.
Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) teaching techniques can be used for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities. The Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) approach and its techniques can help children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) learn new ways of interacting with others, improve academically and use the skills they learn in different settings – for example, at home, school and in the community. ABA can also help children learn to replace difficult behaviour with more appropriate behaviour, like using words to ask for an object rather than screaming. For example, the skills children learn might include using words and language, following instructions, taking turns, playing with others, toileting and dressing.The key idea behind Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is that most human behaviour is learned through our interaction with our environment. What happens before and after any behaviour influences the likelihood of it being repeated. For example, if behaviour is rewarded, it’s more likely to happen again. If it isn’t rewarded, or is ignored or punished, it’s less likely to happen again.
Programs based on Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) generally involve:
assessing a child’s current skills and difficulties
setting goals and objectives – for example, learning how to say ‘hello’
measuring how often a behaviour or skill happens
designing and implementing a program that teaches the ‘target’ skill
measuring the ‘target’ skill to see whether the program is working
evaluating the program itself and making changes as needed.
The way programs incorporate and apply these elements varies.
The way they’re applied also varies from one child to another. For example, an ABA-based program can be run in a family’s home, at a clinic, school or centre (like an early intervention service), or in a combination of two or more of these settings.
What can ABA be used for?
The short answer is: almost anything. If it is a behaviour, and it can be observed, ABA principles exist that can be used to either increase or decrease that behaviour. As a discipline, ABA providers are charged with the improvement of socially significant behaviors. Socially significant behaviors include communication, social skills, academics, reading and adaptive living skills such as gross and fine motor skills, toileting, dressing, eating, personal self-care, domestic skills, and work skills.
How much ABA is enough?
This commonly asked question has no single answer. Research supports, at a minimum, 25 hours per week of intensive behavioral intervention for young children diagnosed with autism for 12 months a year. The original Lovaas studies showed that approximately half the children were able to achieve typical development with, on average, 40 hours per week over at least 2 years. There is no single study that can inform a parent of the optimal number for their child. But, frankly, ABA, like breathing and eating, should be incorporated into a family’s lifestyle. This does not mean doing flashcards all day long, or sitting at a desk for every waking hour. It does mean that the family should learn ABA principles and how to apply them in the context of daily activities.
What is the role of the parent in an ABA program?
Parents are indispensable in the child’s program. They play a necessary and critical role. Studies show that children whose parents are actively engaged in the process make measurable gains. First, no one knows the child better than the parent; the parent’s provide critical and insightful information that will help guide the ABA program. Second, parents are able to continue to prompt and reinforce the child through his and her various daily activities – an essential component to generalizing skills. Finally, parents are in a position to be able to record and track ABC data in the home and community setting. This information is vital in hypothesizing the function (the “why”) of specific behaviors as well as for determining what conditions encourage behaviors to occur.
Positive Behavioural Support (PBS)
Positive behavioural support is a behaviour management system used to understand what maintains an individual’s challenging behaviour. People’s inappropriate behaviours are difficult to change because they are functional; they serve a purpose for them. These behaviours are supported by reinforcement in the environment.