Being a functioning member of society requires us to act in socially acceptable ways by integrating with the community. However, various developmental disorders prevent individuals from doing so by profoundly affecting their behavior. One of the most common developmental illnesses in modern society is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Millions of children around the world grow up with delays in social and communicational domains. Though the severity may vary at times, these social and communication delays keep these children from integrating into society. They can find normal stimuli triggering. Furthermore, they can also have a hard time forming bonds and maintaining healthy relationships.
However, the good news is that behavioral specialists and psychologists are working towards creating better functioning individuals who can play a role in society. Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) has come to be known as perhaps the most widely used therapeutic intervention for autism. The strategy has proved to be effective in thousands of cases and is now the number one technique used for autism. It is a technique that attempts to reinforce positive behaviors in children to help them adjust to society gradually. The treatment often starts at a young age for children scoring high on the autism spectrum.
If you are interested to learn more about ABA and the teaching strategies used, read on further.
1. Positive and Negative reinforcement
Reinforcement of any kind is a great way to teach your children. However, it can be somewhat detrimental when you are dealing with ASD.
- Positive reinforcement is often helpful for rewarding good behavior. So a kudos, pat on the back or giving the children candy can be a perfect example of positive reinforcement. It encourages the child to repeat the behavior because they relate positive outcomes with said behavior.
- Negative reinforcement is pretty much the opposite of positive reinforcement. However, you punish the child or take away positive stimuli in the environment to learn their lesson.
Using the reinforcements effectively is easier said than done, hence the need for an experienced practitioner. Experienced practitioners can understand the individual’s behavior from various standpoints to develop a tailored approach each time. A master’s in ABA allows you to learn from the best in the field and help children who have autism and other developmental disorders overcome their issues. Suppose you’re looking to enter this field. In that case, you can efficiently complete your masters in applied behavior analysis online and begin teaching these children how to cope.
2. Visual stimuli and modeling
Visuals and various multimedia have a positive effect on ASD children. Hence, most special needs classes come equipped with appropriate projectors/ computers to help teach the children.
Along with visual aids, showing videos and pictures could help the child understand social behavior better. Children are incredibly susceptible to modeling. Therefore, showing them photos and videos may encourage them to repeat positive behaviors which they get exposed to on the screen.
Once students associate positivity with a character on screen, they are highly likely to repeat the behavior. Hence the reason so many children imitate superheroes when they are young.
3. Incorporating social learning
ABA suggests that students can learn a great deal from one another. Peers are one of the primary socializing agents in children. Therefore, if you want children to learn positive traits and learn how to function better in social and occupational domains, consider exposing them to other children.
Exposure to normal functioning or high-functioning autistic children could teach them a thing or two about social behavior. As the previous point about modeling, children can learn from figures they think have a positive image.
ASD children learn how to function better in terms of communication and social interaction, but said social interaction is significant. Stigma has surrounded these children for too long, and making friends has been somewhat of a challenging task. Spending time with other children and making friends can go a long way in managing ASD.
4. Errorless learning
It is one of the most commonly used examples of ABA principles in the classroom. Teachers would give the children different tasks/ questions and then encourage the correct answer. Therefore, there is less chance for the children to make mistakes and learn about the subject matter in the process.
For example, a teacher may ask seemingly simple questions like “which words start with the letter A?”. If the child doesn’t respond or doesn’t know the answer, the teacher may prompt the child. “Does an apple start with an A?” could be a prompt to lead the child in the right direction to deliver the correct answer.
It helps children learn about new things without the pressure of giving right or wrong answers. Once the child is on the right tangent and begins to answer correctly, the teacher can take away the cues and encourage independent responses.
5. Token Economy
The token economy is a behavioral modification strategy that is helpful with adults as well as children. It is also beneficial in the treatment of substance abuse and addiction clients who are in rehabilitation. However, it has proved successful with ASD children as well.
The technique proposes that children do good deeds/ tasks and get rewarded for their behavior with tokens. The teacher gives the children these tokes, which they can exchange for something worth the value. For example, trading in ten tokens can get the children a juice box—five tokens for a candy bar and so on.
This way, children learn what behaviors are appreciated and how they should carry them out. It’s reasonably similar to positive reinforcement, but the children can choose their rewards in a token economy.
A special needs classroom is considerably more challenging than a regular one. Not only does the teacher have to be educated in the relevant field, but they need to have an angelic level of patience to deal with the children.
The technique above and seriously help make teaching autistic children easier and help them cope as well. Practice whichever ones you think work best and watch the children grow. It is a rewarding experience to see.