ABA Therapy Techniques That Get Proven Results

A therapist sits next to a child playing with blocks on the floor.

When it comes to any form of pediatric autism therapy, every approach must be child-centric and flexible to meet that unique child’s needs. However, there are certain Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy techniques that have achieved results in many children with autism over the years, meaning that quality of life, independence, and life skills have improved with therapy.

Let’s look at the results and research around some common ABA therapy techniques and see if they could be a good place to start for your child.

Discrete Trial Training (DTT)

Discrete Trial Training (DTT) is a method of teaching skills to a child in simplified, structured steps. Instead of teaching an entire skill at once, the skill is broken down into smaller steps before the whole task is mastered. Here’s an example of how DTT might be used to teach a child with autism to identify colors:

  1. Antecedent (Instruction): The therapist places four cards of different colors (red, blue, green, yellow) in front of the child and says, “Point to red.”
  2. Behavior (Response): The child responds by either pointing to the red card or not.
  3. Consequence:
    1. If the child points to the red card (correct response), the therapist immediately gives positive reinforcement such as praise (“Great job!”), a high-five, or a favorite toy or treat.
    2. If the child points to a different color or doesn’t respond (incorrect response), the therapist might prompt the correct response by guiding the child’s hand to touch the red card or simply move on to the next trial without providing reinforcement.
  4. Inter-trial Interval: There is a short pause (a few seconds) before starting the next trial.

This sequence (antecedent-behavior-consequence) is repeated multiple times with the goal of the child learning to identify the color red when asked. Once the child masters this skill, the therapist can introduce a new color or skill to learn. The key to effective DTT is breaking down complex skills into smaller steps, providing clear and simple instructions, immediate feedback, and positive reinforcement for correct responses.

Natural Environment Training (NET)

While DTT is more structured, Natural Environment Training (NET) is designed to be less structured and more flexible. NET involves teaching skills within the natural environment where the behavior typically occurs, such as home or school. This technique has been shown to increase generalization of skills and improve social interactions.

Verbal Behavior Intervention (VBI)

Verbal Behavior Intervention (VBI) is another ABA-based intervention that focuses on teaching verbal skills. VBI is particularly effective for children with ASD who have language delays. It encourages children to learn language by connecting words with their purposes.

Pivotal Response Training (PRT)

Pivotal Response Training (PRT) aims to increase the motivation of children with ASD to learn, initiate communication with others, and monitor their own behaviors. Studies show that PRT can lead to widespread improvements in communication, social, and behavioral areas.

Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI)

Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) is an application of ABA for very young children with ASD, typically younger than five, often as soon as the child shows signs of developmental delays. Research indicates that EIBI can lead to substantial improvements in cognitive and adaptive behavior.

ABA therapy techniques such as DTT, NET, VBI, PRT, and EIBI have shown promising results for children with autism. But, again, each child is unique, and the way they navigate the world needs to be taken into high consideration by their clinicians and caregivers.

At Sonoran Learning and Behavioral Services, our licensed and Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) use ABA therapy techniques and ten years of experience to inform our approach to every child’s treatment plan. Get started below if you’re interested in ABA therapy with us!

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