Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) helps us to better understand why people behave the way they do. Using ABA software helps us identify and track patterns, and much more.

Have you wondered why people behave the way they do? Why do consumers buy certain products and not others? What makes some people cling to things, but others don’t? Why can’t some people maintain eye contact? Why do some people fidget?

Recently, ABA researchers have found answers to some of these questions as they relate to specific psychological disorders like autism.

The primary goal of ABA is to assist the person to change their behavior and decrease the need for special services. This can be a daunting, but rewarding task for therapists, caregivers, and the client. To make things easier for everyone, therapists can use ABA software. These important psychology tools manage the entire treatment process including the administrative functions such as billing, reporting, timesheets, and payments.

Before we get into the benefits of using ABA software in your practice, let’s explore what ABA is and isn’t, who it’s for, why some people don’t like the approach, and how you can become an ABA therapist.

What is ABA Therapy?

Applied Behavior Analysis is a scientific method that uses our existing knowledge of behavior and applies it to real-world situations. It’s flexible and useful in a variety of settings including school, home, or in the community. ABA treatments work in one-to-one or group settings.

This approach involves two key strategies to understand and change behavior — Positive Reinforcement and ABC (Antecedents, Behaviors, Consequences). Tailoring the approach to your or your client’s needs is common. ABA software helps you track and analyze the treatment you provide.

The primary aim is to improve undesirable behaviors, but it delivers more than that. From increased language and communication skills to improved attention, memory, social skills, and performance in academic subjects. ABA also works for children and adults, as well as face-to-face and within telehealth solutions, making it one of the most effective forms of therapy.

Who is ABA For?

ABA therapy is beneficial for people who have psychological disorders. Most often used as an intervention for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), its reach is much wider than that. The term ‘psychological disorder’ covers a range of disorders and ASD is just one example. For a more complete list of disorders, check out the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

ABA focuses on the behavioral aspect of psychological disorders. It’s not a comprehensive treatment for all disorders that fall within this classification. The specific behaviors ABA treats can include:

  • Social and communication skills, for instance in speech therapy
  • Academic skills, such as reading
  • Adaptive learning skills (motor skills), e.g. in occupational therapy
  • On the job competence, and
  • Hygiene.

Does ABA work?

ABA is an evidence-based therapeutic approach recognized by the American Psychological Association and the U.S. Surgeon General.[1] It has passed several tests that look at quality, usefulness, and effectiveness, and is applied both by therapists and in mental health coaching.

Evidence has also shown that while not useful for everyone, it’s most effective when the intervention is intensive (up to 40 hours a week) and implemented for up to 3 years.[2] To ensure success, the creation of ABA-focused schools is on the rise. For example, the May Institute has schools in California and Massachusetts. These programs use consistent behavior training and supervision with students.

Several studies have assessed the efficacy of ABA therapy. Single-case experimental designs have shown results ranging from 80% to 90% reduction in problematic behavior.[3] However, placebo testing has raised several ethical questions since withholding treatment can lead to the deterioration of the condition. [4]

Nevertheless, the National Standard Project of the National Autism Center classified ABA as “established” for use with adults age 22 and above. This means that ABA interventions offer high levels of support. There are 14 established interventions for children, adolescents, and young adults (under the age of 22), and behavioral interventions is one of these.[5] Often, these interventions come from applied behavior analysis, behavioral psychology, and positive behavior supports research. The Autism Evidence-Based Practice Review Group also found that 27 ABA practices met the required criteria for evidence-based interventions.[6]

What Do Critics Say?

ABA has helped children with autism speak, change problematic behaviors, and increase helpful behaviors. However, ABA interventions have also become controversial. Opponents argue that diversity acceptance should trump strict regimens of therapy.[7][8]

Other criticisms concern:

  • Strict adherence to the origins of ABA which included punishment, not just positive reinforcement
  • Repetition that isn’t generalized beyond the sessions
  • Lack of focus on skill development
  • Too much focus on eliminating an undesirable behavior,
  • Too many therapeutic hours per week, and
  • Inconsistent delivery from one therapist to the next.

Recognizing these criticisms doesn’t diminish the overall effectiveness of ABA interventions. The primary consideration when seeking help is that therapists individualize treatments and select interventions according to accepted standards. 

How to become an ABA Therapist

The requirements to become an ABA therapist vary depending on where you live. Programs might require anything from a high school graduation certificate and 40 hours of training to a master’s degree with 270 hours of coursework and 1500-hours of fieldwork.

Some states require licensing to practice ABA and there isn’t an international body that determines licensing. You can find more state-specific information at Applied Behavior Analysis Edu. The Behavior Analyst Certification Board offers various levels of certification that include required coursework from an accredited school, supervision, an exam, and continuing education to keep your certification active. 

The courses you should expect to take include everything from ethical standards to experimental design, testing, identifying problems and psychological assessment, behavior change systems, and interventions. 

Are you already a practitioner and want to streamline your services? Then consider using ABA software systems. These systems make your day-to-day work easier and more productive.

How does ABA Software work?

Most ABA software solutions are cloud-based, and accessible from any device that has an internet connection through a web browser or a dedicated app. Most software providers offer a demo or free trial so you can decide if the functions and features meet your needs.

ABA software offers a range of different capabilities. These include progress reports, programs, collaboration functionality, note-taking, billing, scheduling, and automation. Developers gear each feature toward making the lives of those using the software easier wherever your practice takes you. 

ABA software helps clinical staff, caregivers, and parents track progress about targets and milestones that include several different criteria for the client. The software keeps everyone involved in the client’s intervention up-to-date. Qualified ABA therapists can use ABA software to improve how they work while also automating many of the administrative tasks.

ABA software data types

ABA Software programs collect data from your ABA practice. This helps you take full advantage of ABA therapy  Data types allow you to create, manage, and update unique programs like discrete trials, frequencies, durations, intervals, and task analysis.

The various software programs also collect ABC (Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence) data. This lets you run programs and identify the process of what happens when a particular activity elicits a specific set of behaviors and consequences.

Represented as charts, ABC data gives you a map of positive or negative behaviors. You also learn how the person undergoing the therapy reacts to certain stimuli. This valuable data collection can help you better understand the client’s triggers. Having this information can lead to more strategic interventions and improve positive outcomes.

What are ABA software workflows? 

Workflows in ABA software systems are like manual processes therapists, analysts, and parents already use. However, gathering and sharing information is easier if you use the software. Workflows can include therapy notes, basic communication, and progress reports. Collaborative workflows support each unique user. For example, therapists can input information such as SOAP or BIRP notes and use a coding system like ICD-10. Parents could add simple notes to communicate progress or concerns.

Billing, timesheets, and scheduling are also workflows that the therapist uses for the administrative side of their practice. These are especially useful for processing and managing health insurance reporting. Automating billing helps you focus on your clients and reduces the likelihood that therapy sessions end prematurely. 

Workflow availability varies from one solution to another and by need. No software solution is identical, so double-check that the platform you choose caters to how you manage your sessions.

ABA Software Solutions

There are many unique treatment software solutions ABA practices can use. They each have strengths and weaknesses. Several give you the flexibility to customize aspects of the programs. Others give you pre-defined templates that can get you up and running fast. Features like client profiles, student assignments, and scheduling allow you to keep your focus on what matters — helping your patient while maintaining great client relationships.

Pricing structures vary from one application to another. It’s also affected by the size of your practice and the features you want. Many of the companies also offer consultations to help you define your needs. 

Resources

There is a trove of information available online about ABA. You can find blogs, papers, research studies, and discussions about the various uses of ABA. It’s a highly regarded therapeutic approach worldwide. Some NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that deal with psychological disorders, like autism, use ABA. Their resources and experiences might be useful across borders. Other NGO resources, such as memberships, might not. Reach out to the ABA community in your area – or check out what the e-health community has online – to understand what software they use and learn about other resources.  

There is a shortage of ABA therapists to meet the growing need for mental health solutions. As more people are being diagnosed with psychological disorders and mental health issues, this is a field worth investigating if you enjoy helping people.

Related: Outreach Programs and Their Role in a Digital World

Conclusion

Research supports the effectiveness of ABA therapy. Some controversy surrounds the subject and design of older studies. However, ABA remains a strong therapeutic approach for those suffering from psychological disorders, including autism.

The variety of software solutions ABA practices can use helps caregivers, teachers, and parents alike better manage what is, mostly, an intensive process. Several resources and features are available with most ABA software platforms. These can help everyone involved better understand the process, identify patterns, implement interventions, and analyze results. 

ABA software programs save time and reduce the administrative actions involved. As a result, you can spend more time working with your clients.

References

  1. ^ Autism Speaks. (n.d.). What is Applied Behavior Analysis. Retrieved from https://www.autismspeaks.org/applied-behavior-analysis-aba-0
  2. ^ Linstead, E., Dixon, D.R., Hong, E., Burns, C.O., French, R., Novack, M. N., & Granpeesheh, D. (2017). An evaluation of the effects of intensity and duration on outcomes across treatment domains for children with autism spectrum disorder. Translational Psychiatry, 7(9): e1234.
  3. ^ Lindgren, S., Wacker, D., Suess, A., Schieltz, K., Pelzer, K., Kopelman, T., Lee, J., Romani, P., & Waldron, D. (2016). Telehealth and Autism: Treating Challenging Behavior at Lower Cost. Pediatrics, 137(Suppl 2): S167–S175.
  4. ^ Bąbel, P., Bajcar, E. A., Marchewka, K., & Sikora, K. (2001). Placebo Groups in Research on the Effectiveness of ABA Therapeutic Techniques. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 1899,
  5. ^ National Autism Center at May Institute. (n.d.). Autism Interventions. Retrieved from https://www.nationalautismcenter.org/autism/autism-interventions/
  6. ^ Wong, C., Odom, S. L., Hume, K. A., Cox, A. W., Fettig, A. Kucharczyk, S., Brock, M. E., Plavnick, J. B., Fleury, V. P., & Schultz, T. R. (2014). Evidence-Based Practices for Children, Youth, and Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Comprehensive Review. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 45. 10.1007/s10803-014-2351-z.
  7. ^ Child Mind. (n.d.). The controversy around ABA. Retrieved from https://childmind.org/article/controversy-around-applied-behavior-analysis/
  8. ^ Dept. of Bio-Medical Sciences and School of Health Sciences, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. (2019) The Efficacy Of Applied Behavior Analysis On The Quality Of Critical Life Skills In Autistic Youth. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.pcom.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1445&context=research_day

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