Treatment for every child with neurodevelopmental disorders should be designed to meet their specific needs. A variety of therapy options have proven to be successful – but the two approaches that work exceptionally well together in improving the child’s social and communication skills are ABA therapy and speech therapy.
What is ABA Therapy?
ABA or Applied Behavioural Analysis is a widely accepted therapy for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The therapy focuses on enhancing specific behaviours, like communication and social skills, academics and reading, and adaptive learning skills, like hygiene, grooming, fine motor dexterity, domestic capabilities, and punctuality. ABA is effective for adults and children with psychological disorders in different settings, including homes, schools, and the workplace.
ABA therapy, through its multiple sessions of various programs, aims to equip the troubled individual, who is lagging behind his/her peers in learning with specialized instructions – thereby helping the child to acquire the necessary skills to live a successful life. Over time, the goal of the therapy is to reduce gradually or eliminate the need for instructions and support. In simpler words, the therapist aims to make the child aware of the foundation skills that are needed to respond appropriately and accurately throughout his/her life.
How does ABA work?
ABA therapy involves a variety of techniques to understand and change specific behaviours. It is based on teaching certain skills through positive reinforcement and observation.
- Positive Reinforcement
A behaviour followed by something that is valued – for example, a reward – is likely to be repeated. This, over time, encourages positive behaviour change. The therapist will first identify goal behaviour. Every time the child successfully uses the skill or behaviour, he/she gets a meaningful reward – for example, a book or a toy, praise, the permission to watch a program on the TV etc.
- Consequence, Behaviour, Antecedent
Understanding the consequences and antecedents is another essential part of the ABA program. The three steps, ‘A-B-C’s help us understand and teach behaviour.
An antecedent is what happens right before the target behaviour. It may either be verbal – a request or a command – or physical – an object or a toy, sound or light etc. An antecedent can come from the environment or from another person, or be internal – as a thought or feeling.
A resulting behaviour refers to the individual’s response or lack of it to the antecedent. It may be a verbal response or an action.
A consequence is what comes following the behaviour. It may include positive reinforcement of the expected behaviour or no reaction for inappropriate/incorrect responses.
With repeated practice, the child will be able to replace the inappropriate behaviour with a more helpful one.
What is Speech Therapy?
Speech therapy focuses on upgrading a child’s speech and abilities to express and understand language. The therapy can help individuals with different types of speech disorders and language issues, like dyspraxia and dyslexia.
How does Speech Therapy work?
Speech therapy works by addressing the following problems –
- Articulation – Difficulty forming sounds in syllables or speaking incorrectly to the extent that the listener is unable to understand the words spoken
- Fluency – Problems (like stuttering) in which the flow of speech gets interrupted by partial-word repetitions, abnormal stoppages, or prolonged syllables and sounds
- Voice or Resonance – Problems with the volume, quality, and pitch of voice that distract listeners from what is being said
- Oral Feeding Disorders – Difficulty swallowing, drooling, and eating
- Receptive Language Disorder – Difficulty receiving or understanding the language
- Expressive Language Disorder – Trouble putting words together, inability to use language in a socially appropriate way, or limited vocabulary
- Cognitive-communication Disorders – Trouble with communication skills, including attention, memory, perception, regulation, organization, and problem solving
How does Speech Therapy and ABA work together?
Speech therapy and ABA therapy together are important to ensure the success of the treatment for the child. From improved social skills to better intellectual abilities – both the therapies can help individuals adjust to normal life. Through the ‘twin approach’, children are able to develop emotional and social skills as their peers.
Children with certain psychological and speech disorders, who receive therapy, are more likely to remain in school. They have shown drastic improvement in academics and communication. Individuals have also shown remarkable improvement in areas, like imitation, non-verbal expression, matching, receptive language, and expressive language. Children have shown great performance on IQ tests after the therapy.
To achieve the desired outcome, parents and the therapist should work together to support the child. In case you have a concern or query you can always consult a specialist & get answers to your questions!