The Basics of ABA

       Applied Behavior Analysis, commonly referred to as ABA, consists of individualized interventions. Based on analysis, ABA ensures that all interventions are effective and functional to each individual. There are some useful strategies to note when applying ABA to individuals with autism. We will highlight self-management, reinforcement, structured teaching, and prompts.

  • Self-management is the ability to be independent. Most ABA interventions consist of techniques and goals to help individuals with ASD learn how to be independent throughout daily life.
  • Reinforcement is one of the most common techniques of ABA. Behavior that is followed by a preferable outcome will likely to reoccur in the future. Let’s take a quick moment to differentiate between positive and negative reinforcement.
    • Positive reinforcement-when the outcome is something given (giving your child praise, a reward)
    • Negative reinforcement– when the outcome results in taking something away. (Does not mean punishment, could be taking away a certain chore for good behavior, etc.)
  • Structured Teaching aims to breakdown the teaching of skills like communication, self-care, scholarly, and social skills. This allows the therapist to give as much structure to teaching these skills as needed, depending on the needs of each individual.
  • Prompts are another strategy used in ABA therapy to help individuals with autism follow a sequence of actions. These prompts can help children become more independent and can consist of a set of actions such as, steps to brushing your teeth or folding laundry.

Stay tuned for more information about ABA and how it can be utilized to improve lives. Also, be sure to check out our ‘Resources’ tab to learn more!

Science-based Treatments for Autism

For many conditions, including autism, scientific evidence and data are used to ensure that the treatment methods are working successfully.  Applied Behavior Analysis is the most scientifically proven method for treating individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.


Advice from Friends and Family

          It is not surprising that there are many theories, opinions, and ideas to treat autism that do not involve science-based treatment methods. Friends and family may voice their opinions about a new theory they heard and it’s benefits. They can hear these theories on the news or from an Internet search because journalists continue to publish information on non-scientific treatment methods for ASD. It can be hard to listen to the advice of family members and friends who have your best intentions, when they do not understand that these new theories typically are not science-based. Sometimes you may perceive the advice as critical; perhaps a family member is making you feel as if you’re not doing enough for your child. Hearing the opinions of others while trying to keep your child’s best interest at heart can become very frustrating.


Inform and Educate on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

        When hearing the advice and opinions of others leaves you questioning your decisions or doubting yourself…


  • Remember that these ‘breakthrough’ treatments for autism are not scientifically proven to be effective.
  • Numerous scientific researches have been published supporting the use of ABA therapy.
  • Autism-treatment is an expensive industry; many claims are made in hopes of helping a company ‘sell’ their product.
  • Be critical and question everything you read on the Internet. Not everything on the Internet is reliable.
  • The vast majority of autism treatments lack scientific support.
  • The most effective treatments for autism usually receive the least amount of attention from the media (news, journals, Internet searches).
  • There is no “quick fix”.

Why Your Child’s Behavior May Get Worse, before it Gets Better

If you’re a parent and your child works with a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, (BCBA) you are probably familiar with their recommendations of interventions based off of extensive research and principles.


But what if the suggested intervention makes your child’s behavior worse?


It could be likely that your child is experiencing what is known as an extinction burst.


What is an extinction burst?


An extinction burst is “an increase in the rate of responding when reinforcing consequences are withheld after the occurrence of the target behavior.” In other words, things tend to get worse before getting better.


How is this possible?


Well, the best way to explain is through an example. Say your child yelled and screamed every time she wanted a cookie. Once you give your daughter a cookie, she is quiet.


But do you want to reward her with a cookie every time she screams for one?


Probably not. Instead, you could teach your child replacement behavior. Instead of giving her a cookie when she yells, only give her a cookie when she asks for it calmly. But your daughter, used to getting a cookie by screaming, will think she just has to scream louder until you eventually cave and reward her with the cookie.


Should you cave into the intensified screaming behavior and reward her with a cookie?


No, stay strong! If you resist and remain patient through the loud screaming, your daughter will learn that the screaming and yelling will no longer result in a cookie. By stopping the reinforcing behavior (giving your daughter a cookie) she will first scream louder and louder (extinction burst). Then, she will realize that the only way she will get a cookie is if she asks nicely for it. Addressing the problem behavior and replacing it with appropriate behavior, like asking nicely, will be worth it!


What if an extinction burst causes my child to become more aggressive?


If you feel unsafe or the problem behavior is intolerable, remember to talk to your behavior analyst. Let them know what is and is not working for your family so you can create a successful plan together!

Care for Self, Care for Them

5 Self-Care Tips for Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

It’s the nature of parenthood to put your child’s needs before your own. If your child has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), this tendency becomes even more pronounced. Many parents will move heaven and earth to make sure that their children get the care and support they need.

As much as you want to smooth the path for your child, however, it’s important to take time to care for yourself. You can only take the best possible care of your child when you’re taking the best possible care of yourself.

We’ve assembled five tips to help you do just that. Have a look at the list below, and remember that you’re never alone in your journey. The community – including The SEED Center of Stamford – is always here to help.


1. Ask for help when you need it.

“It takes a village to raise a child.” This is every bit as true for children on the spectrum as it is for children not on the spectrum. Don’t be afraid to ask family members and friends for extra help when you need it. You are not in this alone.


2. Research community resources.

This goes hand-in-hand with asking for help when you need it. There are many resources available in the community designed to help children with ASD and their parents, from agencies that provide respite care to therapists, school resources, and much more. The more you know about what help is available, the better you’ll be able to access it when you need it.


3. Consider joining a support group.

There is no one who understands the unique joys and challenges of parenting a child with ASD like another parent of a child with ASD. By joining a support group, you can air your concerns and discuss the challenges of parenting a child with ASD in a safe, non-judgmental environment. (This doesn’t have to be an in-person support group. There are many online forums and communities where parents of children on the spectrum can gather and support one another.)


4. Make modifications to your home.

Children with ASD are very sensitive to their environments, especially light, color, and sound. Learn what stimuli your child responds best to and which stimuli cause your child distress. Then, modify your home to enhance the positive stimuli and downplay the negative. This will help your child stay calm and content at home, which can help the entire family.


5. Remember the joy.

Parenting a child with ASD isn’t only a challenge – it’s also a joy. Focus on the positives as much as you can. Take pride in your child’s accomplishments. There’s no one else quite like your child. That’s something to celebrate!

10 Ways to Prevent a Shopping Meltdown

The crowds, sounds, and sights of a shopping mall or center can easily cause a sensory stimulus overload for a child with autism. This can make the task incredibly challenging for a parent. These ten tips are aimed to prevent shopping meltdowns and create a calmer experience.

  1. Let your child know ahead of time

This can help your child cope with the idea of the stressful situation and allow them to know what is expected.

  1. Take a Virtual Tour

Virtually tour the store online or if possible, take photos of the store on your cell phone to share with your child. This will allow your child to become familiar with the new environment before entering it.

  1. Build Tolerance

Start with shorter, less extensive trips to the store that will allow your child to become comfortable with the store. Make these trips happen frequently and always praise good behavior.

  1. Plan a Schedule

Go over the schedule of the day with your child the night before. Tell them a specific time that the shopping will take place and plan one of your child’s favorite activities afterwards.

  1. Be energized

Make sure your child is well rested and energized before the shopping trip. Being tired shortens everyone’s tolerance.

  1. Identify Triggers

Visiting stores ahead of time to search for stimuli that could trigger your child is beneficial.

  1. Prepare for Triggers

If you know the store has particular stimuli that trigger your child, prepare for it. If your child is sensitive to loud sounds, bring along some headphones.

  1. Get ready to shop

Prepare your child with a list, whether verbal or visual, of what you want to accomplish for the day. Make this list as detailed as possible, including finding a parking spot and shopping for specific items. This will help your child mentally prepare.

  1. Establish a signal

Whether this is a verbal signal or a gesture, discuss a signal beforehand that your child can use when they are feeling overwhelmed.

  1. Bring a soothing object

Try to bring a toy, blanket, or object that calms your child down just in case a meltdown begins.

The Positive Features of Autism

It is important to embrace differences and the power of the autistic mind. Here are some positive characteristics!

  • Creativity
    • Unique Imagination
    • Expression of Ideas
  • Integrity
    • Honesty
    • Loyalty
    • Commitment
  • Excellent long term memory
    • Absorb and recollect information
  • Attention to Detail
    • Accuracy
    • Thoroughness
  • Analytical
    • Observing patterns and repetition
  • Deep Focus
    • Strong concentration
    • Not easily distracted
  • Observant
    • Identify facts
    • Listen, look, learn approach
  • Visual Skills
    • Visual learning and recollection
    • Detail-oriented
  • Expertise
    • In-depth knowledge
    • High level of knowledge skills
  • Unique thought process
    • Innovative solutions
  • Determination
    • Resilience and persistence
    • Challenge opinions
  • Accepting of Difference
    • Less likely to pass judgment
    • May question norms

What is ABA?

Applied Behavior Analysis, commonly referred to as ABA, is scientifically supported to be the most effective treatment for children with autism. ABA interventions focus on using behavioral reinforcement. Behavioral reinforcement teaches your child appropriate behavior for different circumstances that they may encounter.

Remember to keep in mind that every child is unique and there is not one specific ABA treatment that will work well for every child. That is why Behavior Therapists use a variety of interventions to figure out the technique that works effectively for each child. Once the effective technique has been identified, therapists can cater the treatment to suit the child.

What are some examples of ABA Techniques?

  • Discrete Trial Training
    • Aims to train your child on skills they may not otherwise pick up. This is used to increase motivation, attention span, social skills, and verbal behavior.
  • Differential Reinforcement
    • Teaches your child appropriate behaviors for various social environments such as school, home, or recess. This works to help your child realize a behavior might be acceptable in one environment (home) but not in another (school).
  • Extinction
    • This technique encourages parents, therapists, or teachers to avoid reacting to a child who is demonstrating challenging or negative behaviors, such as a tantrum. This technique was discussed in the previous blog and is essential for parents to remember that if you show your child attention when they are illustrating bad behavior, you are giving them the attention they want.
  • Foundational Communication
    • Communication is key to understanding your child’s needs and wants. Some children may have trouble communicating verbally and some may not be able to read body language. It is important to figure out a method, whether verbal or non-verbal, to communicate with your child.

Tips on Communicating with a Child with ASD

We thought these communication tips could be beneficial for parents, teachers, and peers interacting with a child or young adult with ASD.

  • Be Clear and Concise

Use literal language and avoid figurative language because individuals with ASD usually have a difficult time acknowledge idioms, metaphors, etc. Make sure to explain yourself without excessive word use. Limiting the amount of words is helpful during early learning to help get ideas across.

  • Encourage Tasks with Positivity

We do not want our to children associate our voice only with commands and demands. Encouraging your child with positive words and suggestions will allow your child to associate a task with positivity.

  • Give Suggestions, Not Demands

Encourage your child to preform a certain task by making suggestions. “Let’s try putting away your toys,” as opposed to, “Put away your toys!”

  • Use Name with Praise

Use of a child’s name in association with praise will likely encourage more positive behavior. Avoid only using your child’s name when placing demands.

  • Refrain from Verbal Communication during Challenging Behavior

When undesirable behavior is taking place, refrain from engaging by limiting your words. Using verbal communication while your child is partaking in a negative behavior will only encourage them because you are giving them the attention they are seeking. Also, avoid seeking a verbal response from a child when they are expressing a challenging behavior.