The Set-up for the Successful Home Teaching and Learning of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

applied behavioral analysisFor home schooling parents, applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy provides more than a scientifically proven method of teaching social and communication skills to children with autism. ABA also develops many of the skills that attract parents to home schooling—flexible minds, adaptability, motivation and self-initiative. When these skills are taught in a natural home environment, they are more easily generalizable to school, work and other environments.

Whether or not you are homeschooling your children full time, ABA teacher training can benefit your child with autism. ABA is an evidenced-based practice that is most effective when taught in the child’s natural environment—home, school, and social settings—where everyday tasks and behavioral interactions become valuable ‘teachable moments.’

This three-part Special Learning series shows you how to set up a successful home schooling ABA teaching and learning environment, so before the school bell rings in your home, your child will already be actively developing life-enhancing skills.

These articles will show you how to:

  1. Understand Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and the ABA Modalities Used in Home Schooling (BELOW)
  2. How to Start an ABA Home Schooling Program and Conduct a Student Assessment
  3. Set Up the Environment for Home Schooling with ABA

Understanding Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and the ABA Modalities Used in Home Schooling

Many home schooling parents feel the educational system is failing to adequately prepare their children for their life ahead. This failure may be more acute for children with special needs for whom parents may undertake a regional and even national search for the right educational programs. Each school setting, whether public or private, is different across campuses, cities, counties, states and countries.  But even after careful due diligence to understand what each school can offer  your child/student to help him/her succeed, what happens when accommodations like an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), 504 Plan, extra-time, gifted-programs, therapy(ies) and the outcomes (results) are not meeting your child’s needs?

The student may continue to “fall-behind” in several domains: academic achievement, developmental/emotional growth and social development.  It is at this time, the parents and teachers begin to look for an alternative education placement and may elect to provide home schooling (Special Learning, 2012).

When a parent or caregiver opts their child into a home schooling curriculum, there is a genuine eagerness from parents/caregivers/teachers to help a child/student succeed.  If the home-school student has a learning disability (Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Down’s Syndrome, emotional/behavioral concerns) or any Special Needs, this eagerness to assist in the education process is magnified tenfold.

How do you ensure you have chosen the right home-school program for your child, especially for a student with ASD or other Special Needs?  The most successful home-schooling programs should incorporate academics with emotional, social, and adaptive skill development.  This approach is widely considered to be an individualized learning curriculum and can be achieved with the use of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

What is ABA?:

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) provides parents seeking efficacious home schooling programs with a systematic, scientific and evidenced-based intervention.  The individualized training program applies the principles of ABA and learning theory to address specific behavioral problems and improve social behaviors. By focusing on how an individual learns and teaching the student by way of their learning style, ABA improves skills, corrects problematic behaviors and teaches new social and communication skills.

ABA is incorrectly thought to be an exclusive “therapy” for children and adults with ASD or problematic behaviors. The system of positive reinforcement can decrease negative behaviors and promote positive behaviors in all your children. ABA analyzes the relationship between the environment (what is happening around the student), the behavior (the student sitting and attending to the lesson plan), and the consequence (what the student gets out of doing the behavior).  This is referred to as the A-B-C contingency.

Jose is a 5 year old boy with ASD and has difficulties with appropriate communication and many times will whine and drop to the floor during class when a math problem has been assigned to him.  When he engages in whining and dropping to the floor it can last for 30 minutes.  When he is finally calm, the math subject is over and he loses out on important instructional time for math.  In ABA, the relationship between the A-B-C contingency shows that Jose is likely to engage in whining and dropping to the floor (behavior) when math instruction/assignment is delivered to him (antecedent-trigger) and he will not have to complete the assignment (consequence-what he gets out of doing the behavior).After the relationship between the antecedent (environment)-behavior-consequence (A-B-C) is observed, an individualized curriculum/plan can be created and modified to optimize this A-B-C relationship and increase learning across several domains (e.g., functional communication skills, gross and fine motor skills, toilet training) based on findings from real-time data.  More parents are finding Applied Behaviorial Analysis (ABA) to be the most helpful methodology to initiate, modify and continue a home-schooling program while providing an individualized approach to teaching and life-long successful learning (Special Learning, 2012).

Who Provides ABA?

Some do-it-yourself homeschoolers will naturally try and implement ABA on their own. Many parents can and do successfully implement ABA programs, and those with guidance from a Board Certified ABA practitioner are the most successful. Keep in mind that the clinical setting and efficacy of data collection and application are fundamental to getting the most from ‘teachable moments’, and thus the success of ABA.

At the very least during the initial set up, consider bringing in a globally credentialed expert in the field of Applied Behaviorial Analysis called a Board Certified Behavior Analyst™ (BCBA®).  There are four levels of professionals who are considered experts and/or implementers in the field of ABA.

  1. Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctorate™ (BCBA-D®)
    1. Is a Doctoral level individual who assesses and creates programs, supervises other Behavior Analysts and/or completes research
  2. Board Certified Behavior Analyst™ (BCBA®)
    1. Is a Master’s level (or higher) individual who assesses and creates programs, and supervises other Behavior Analysts
  3. Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst™ (BCaBA®)
    1. Is a Baccalaureates’ level (or higher) individual who assesses and creates programs, supervises Behavior Technicians and works directly under a BCBA® or BCBA-D®
  4. Registered Behavior Technician™ (RBT ®)
    1. Is a high school graduate (or higher) who has taken extensive course-work in ABA principles and is the implementer of programs created by a Behavior Analyst. This individual must work under direct supervision of a Behavior Analyst and may not independently assess or create programs, and/or supervise other Behavior Analysts

ABA Modalities for Home Schooling Programs

ABA has several different types of modalities to teaching.  Often times, several approaches are combined to achieve the  best outcomes.  Each modality can be utilized with varying student levels (Special Learning, 2012).  A few modalities in ABA include but are not limited to the following:

  • Incidental Teaching– is the least restrictive means to teaching as the child self-initiates the behavioral lesson within set parameters. A child reaching for a ball, for example, is a good opportunity to prompt the child to ask for the ball by name, color, and so on. In this way, incidental teaching develops self-initiation and motivation in a child.
  • Discrete Trial Training (DTT)– a more intense approach to learning in which the student and “teacher” are one-to-one, is a valuable tool for teaching pre-academics (e.g, sitting, eye contact) to higher skills. The child is motivated to produce the desired behavior in response to stimuli, prompts and positive reinforcement (e.g., toys, snacks, praise).
  • Fluency Building– involves a child repeatedly practicing a skill/learning objective until mastery. When one step is mastered (e.g., wetting hands), the next step (e.g., lathering with soap) is repeated until mastery.
  • Verbal Behavior– focuses on developing language and communication by associating words with their function. The verbal operants of mand (requesting), tact (labeling), echoics (vocal imitation), and intraverbal (conversational skills) are employed to relate words to their purpose. The child may respond using signaling, oral language, sign language, Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), comprehension, and so on.

The next two articles provide you with the tools and procedures for conducting a student assessment and setting up an ABA Learning environment in your home.

  1. How to Start an ABA Home Schooling Program and Conduct a Student Assessment
  2. Set Up the Environment for Home Schooling with ABA

References

https://www.special-learning.com/article/incidental_teaching

https://www.special-learning.com/article/Discrete_Trial_Training_Overview

https://www.special-learning.com/article/fluency_building_in_autism

https://www.special-learning.com/article/what_is_verbal_behavior

Special Learning (2012)

  • Applied Behavior Analysis in Homeschooling
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