Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is based on the science of how people learn and can be used to change behaviors. Behavior is anything that we can see a person do – talking, playing, getting dressed, cooking dinner, etc. Behavior change can include learning a new behavior, strengthening a behavior we already do, or decreasing a behavior we want to do less often. One way that ABA can teach or strengthen behaviors is through reinforcement. When someone’s actions are reinforced (something good happens), they are more likely to do the same thing again. For example, if your exercise routine is paying off, you are more likely to keep at it!
ABA uses a systematic approach to applying the principles of learning to help people change their behaviors. It can be used both for increasing socially desirable behaviors (e.g., finishing chores, talking, or playing with a peer), and also for decreasing behaviors that are less desirable (e.g., smoking, tantrums, aggression).
There are many strategies that fall under the ABA umbrella, such as Natural Environment Training, Incidental Teaching, Discrete Trial Instruction, Verbal Behavior, and Pivotal Response Training. At Little Leaves, we will individualize the strategies and approach we use for each child based on his/her needs.
If your child is experiencing developmental delays, his/her physician may have referred you to ABA. In particular, if your child was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), then ABA was likely prescribed. ABA is considered the gold-standard treatment for autism, and there are decades of published research demonstrating its efficacy. It has been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, National Academies of Science, and the Surgeon General as the best practice for individuals with autism. You can learn more at https://asatonline.org/.
Interventions based on ABA can be applied in many areas to help your child, such as (but not limited to) increasing language and communication, improving social and play skills, increasing adaptive skills such as toileting, dressing, and feeding, and reducing unwanted behaviors such as tantrums, aggression, or other dangerous behaviors. Research has shown that early, intensive treatment with ABA can have a very significant impact on the course of a child’s development for those diagnosed with ASD or other developmental delays.
Research in the field of ABA has shown that an intensive treatment of 30-40 hours per week for at least two years yields the best long-term outcomes for young children diagnosed with autism.
When engaging in ABA therapy, children are busy learning new skills and practicing them until they are happening automatically. Both of those things take a lot of time and practice! Remember the last time you tried to learn a new challenging skill that wasn’t in your repertoire yet? The more the practice, the sooner the skill is mastered! For children with delays, the goal is to use as much of their time practicing and learning new skills as possible to help them approach developmental parity.
While 30-40 hours per week of ABA may seem like a lot of time, remember that typically developing children are playing and learning from the world around them every waking moment of the day. An intensive ABA program will help a child with developmental delays do the same.
Professionals who have degrees and training in psychology, education, and related fields can become trained and credentialed in ABA as well. The Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB) offers a range of credentials for clinicians in the field of ABA. Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) are masters- and doctoral-level clinicians with extensive training in ABA methodology and procedures who are certified to deliver and oversee ABA treatments. At Little Leaves, your child will have a BCBA who develops and manages his/her care.
Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) have been certified by the BACB to deliver the treatment that a BCBA has designed. An RBT credential is earned through a combination of coursework, on-the-job experience, and passing an exam. All Little Leaves Behavior Technicians have earned their RBT credential or are working toward doing it. All Little Leaves Behavior Technicians are also college educated.
Little Leaves primarily serves children with Autism. In Florida, we also serve children with Down Syndrome. With our focus on early intervention, Little Leaves works primarily with children from the time they are diagnosed until they enter kindergarten.
Little Leaves primarily offers center-based services for young children with autism which are run in a preschool-like setting. At the center, each client works one-on-one with a trained behavior technician on individualized goals with a focus on social communication, social interactions, and school readiness skills.
Our program runs Monday through Friday from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm. During the day, children have the opportunity to participate in individual therapy time, small group activities with peers, and activities of daily living. While many clients are at our centers for the full day, an individualized schedule is developed for each child based on his/her therapeutic needs.
Little Leaves also works with clients in their homes, daycares, and preschools, most frequently when clients are ready to transition from a Little Leaves center into community setting.
Little Leaves only provides ABA therapy but we regularly collaborate with a child’s speech and OT providers to ensure a coordinated team-approach to treatment. At our centers, we are usually able to accommodate outside therapy providers who would like to come in to see clients during the day.
Little Leaves is in network with many insurance plans and fully supports families in accessing and using their insurance benefits. Not all insurance companies, however, cover ABA for the treatment of autism. Please visit our Insurance page to learn about our plans and how to research whether your plan covers autism. You can also feel free to reach out to us, and we can help you research your benefits.
While ABA can be used to treat skill deficits or challenging behavior regardless of diagnosis, most insurance companies require a diagnosis of autism in order to reimburse for our services. If you would like to explore the option of paying for services without insurance coverage, please contact us to discuss further. (Note: In the state of Florida, some plans also cover ABA for children with Down’s Syndrome.)
Serving Washington D.C., Virginia, Maryland and Florida
Little Leaves, a division of FullBloom, is a center-based Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy program for children ages 1-6 with autism spectrum disorder. Our centers in Maryland, Virginia, and Florida provide ABA therapy services in a preschool-like setting. Little Leaves is accredited by the Behavioral Health Center of Excellence.