What To Do When ABA Therapy Doesn’t Work??

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a child's response when aba therapy doesn't work

Commencing ABA therapy has quite a big impact in every child’s life and his/her family dynamic. And it is no easy task to adapt to these big changes. Try to view this from your child’s perspective. Chances are he or she may not understand why you are bringing him or her to a new place or why he or she is suddenly seeing new faces. If you are not seeing the results you were hoping for after starting an ABA program, or if your child’s behavior seems to be getting worse, you may be tempted to jump to the conclusion that ABA does not work. What should we do when it seems like ABA therapy doesn’t work? You have probably heard this plenty of times, “it always gets worse before it gets better”. In ABA we actually have terminology for this very real phenomenon that can be observe in our data.

Extinction Burst

You might have heard of extinction burst for the first time. What does it mean? Why does it happen? First, it refers to the phenomenon of a previously reinforced or learned behavior temporarily increasing when the reinforcement for the behavior is removed. You might be seeing an increase in undesired behavior because of this. This often happens when a behavior has worked for your child in the past, but then it suddenly stops getting the desired response. For example, during trips to the grocery store, your child usually gets an ice cream. During the next trip to the store there is no time for ice cream, so she cries because crying has gotten her the ice cream in the past. If the crying does not work, she may throw herself on the ground and begin throwing everything she can reach (extinction burst). She is trying harder because she knows that this behavior has worked before which means the undesired behavior increases as she increases her effort. But hang in there, as this will not last forever! With consistent reinforcement of the appropriate behaviors, she will learn that this behavior is no longer getting the desired results. You are likely to see a behavior peak (extinction burst) in your child’s data and drop off quickly.

graphical representation of extinction burst which is used when aba therapy doesn't work

Measuring Progress/Data

In layman’s term, data is defined as a factual information used as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or calculation. In ABA therapy, it is used as the foundation for making decisions on whether intervention should be modified in any way or continued in the same manner. It is a crucial component of ABA as we need this data to understand the function of behaviors. Luckily, there are a bunch of data collection software and methodologies out there to assist ABA professionals in taking data continuously to achieve goals. Speaking of which, goals are based on skills that need to be modified and introduced, and behaviors that need to be modified and replaced. Data is recorded by the ABA therapist during each session to monitor improvements made, strategies that worked well, or changes that may be useful for the next session. Ongoing data collection is critical in individualizing and modifying each child’s ABA therapy plan to help them thrive.

When it seems like aba therapy doesn’t work, we use data to modify the child’s behavior intervention plan to ensure progress. Learn more about ABA intervention here. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter to stay on top of our latest updates.

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