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What ABA therapy looks like

July 19, 2012



For everyone who doesn’t know anything about ABA or that is interested, I decided to write a blog post to describe this therapy a little bit so you have an idea of what we’re doing.


ABA stands for applied behavior analysis.   Its basically behavior modification.  The first step is for the therapists to complete the VB-MAPP which tells them what skills Rett has and what skills he doesn’t.  Once they finalize that they can put together a list of things he is working on.  Then they teach him and practice.  Some of our therapy is table work, or what they call discrete trial teaching.  During this time I hear things like ‘What letter is this? *Rett answers ‘M’ ‘What color is it?’ *Rett answers blue ‘Can you touch the tree?’ *Rett says nothing because he’s touching the tree 😉 *Great work, Rett, here’s the iPAD!’  So basically he has to answer a series of questions and if he does it correctly he gets a reward.  They usually start with stuff they know he knows and move into things he doesn’t know.  They are working on him sitting at the table and doing what he’s asked without throwing a fit or crying. 


Since we don’t have the VB-MAPP done (how long DOES this take, seriously its been almost a month) I can’t tell you what we’re working on yet.  I know that he has a lot of the basic skills down such as letter and number identification and that type of stuff.   It will be interesting once we find out what our curriculum is. 


So then they will test him during these trials and once he can answer correctly 80% of the time, they move onto a different task and so on and so on. It is constantly pushing him and challenging him.  They will also go back and retest things he’s learned to make sure he hasn’t lost them in the process.  It has a lot of  record keeping and tracking associated with it.  They will also track his behaviors we are looking to change (throwing fits, etc) to see if they are increasing or decreasing.  


Of course he can’t sit there for 2 hours so he also plays and while he’s playing they work on requesting things in different ways/answering yes or no, talk about colors/counting and all that fun stuff.  Play skills and social skills are part of the program that they will work on so its really a comprehensive program of all the stuff that needs work all at once. 


And this all sounds wonderful. Except when the reality is your child screaming for 1/2 of the session because he is trying to get used to the therapy.  He doesn’t understand why his reinforcer is being taken away and doesn’t get how to get it back.  Its gotten a LOT better and he continues to respond well.  2 hours a day of therapy is quite a bit for both of us to handle.  I’ve never been away from him for so long before 


I can’t really say if its working or not since they haven’t even really began the program but the amount of crying he’s doing overall has already went down and when you tell him he needs to stop crying he gets it together a lot faster. Having him stop crying was never really high on my priority list. I just assumed that it would disappear as his language increased.


In other news, Rett has had another skill burst with his language. He is now asking ‘Do you hear that?’ in response to things with sounds instead of asking what is that to everything he wants to get your attention for.  He is stringing his words together a lot more.

Right now he is saying ‘Watch the show about birds, mama. Mama, I want to watch the show about birds. Look, mama, I want the birds.’   Very persuasive.


We bought an iPAD for Rett’s therapy since they use it to keep track of his discrete trial sessions.  He is doing so well with it!  The other day he was playing Elmo’s ABC’s and held his Buzz Lightyear toy up and said ‘Look, Buzz, its a whale and a baby whale, too.’ Um, wow.  I can’t believe how much progress he’s made in a year.  He’s also prompting himself now if he answers ‘all done with this’ with ‘just say no’. He is recognizing that ‘I’m all done with this’ is not the correct response to questions that need a yes/no answer.  Next should come him actually answering correctly.  We are still working on my turn/your turn and pronouns. 


We are sad to see Miss Amanda go as our speech path. She opened her own speech center and is no longer doing in home visits. I am hoping to someday finish this deeming waiver packet and get approved so we can get speech and OT covered and can resume seeing her again. 


So that’s what we’ve been up to so far!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jakob's mom permalink
    July 19, 2012 6:49 pm

    Thank you so much for this post and for you blog in general. My son is 21 months d and was diagnosed PDD-NOS in May. We are just beginning our journey, and reading your blog has been very inspirational and helpful. He will be starting ABA in September. I am anticipating some crying and resistance here also. I cannot imagime him sitting at his little table!

  2. July 19, 2012 9:45 pm

    I’m so glad you are enjoying the blog! I hope your son does well with his therapy, keep me updated!

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