What Do These Terms Mean?
• Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
• Discrete Trial Training (DTT)
• Verbal Behavior (VB)
• Naturalistic or Incidental Teaching
• Pivotal Response Training (PRT)
Center-Based ABA Services
ABA Services are offered at the Massachusetts Applied Behavior Analysis Center (MABAC). Compared to home- and school-based services, at MABAC skills and techniques are taught in a carefully planned and controlled environment, which leads to a more accurate implementation of techniques when the parent and child are first learning them. Dr. Bennett uses many different ABA techniques, such as Naturalistic or Incidental Teaching, Discrete Trial Training (DTT), Verbal Behavior (VB), and Pivotal Response Training (PRT). Every child's program is individualized and developed according to the child's specific needs, skill set, and developmental level. All services provided at MABAC include a parent training component, which leads to parents feeling confident in utilizing ABA techniques in their daily lives. Parents participate in treatment with their child and receive constant modeling and coaching from Dr. Bennett. Parents learn how to use techniques to engage their child and teach him/her communication, social skills, play skills, executive functioning skills, and adaptive behavior. If the child demonstrates tantrum behavior or other maladaptive behaviors, parents can also learn behavioral techniques to manage and reduce these behaviors. Specific behavior plans can be developed with the parents as needed. Parent training allows for generalization in the home and community.
Parent training is an important part of MABAC. Research has demonstrated that children with autism make the most progress when they receive "every waking hour" ABA services. When parents learn how to effectively utilize ABA techniques in their everyday lives, the child can make substantial progress. Our goal is to figure out what works for each unique child and family, in order to ensure that parents feel comfortable using these skills on their own.
Speech and Language Therapy
All children with autism spectrum disorders have communication impairments. Some children have delays in receptive and expressive language skills, while many children never develop verbal skills and require the use of an augmentative communication system. Children with Asperger's Disorder or high-functioning autism often require social pragmatics training, which is a specific speech and language service that targets the social aspects of communication, such as metaphor use, understanding humor, reading nonverbal cues, taking turns in conversations, and integrating nonverbal skills (e.g., eye contact) with language. BNS offers speech and language therapy services to meet the needs of children with autism.
Social Skills Groups
All children with autism spectrum disorders have social impairments. Younger children often have difficulty with taking turns, sharing, and playing with other children. Older children often have trouble identifying their emotions, making and maintaining friendships, and understanding the thoughts and feelings of others BNS offers social skills groups to meet the needs of children with autism.
Definition of Terms:
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
ABA is a theoretical perspective used to describe treatment that is:
1) useful in everyday activities,
2) identifies specific behavior that is measurable,
3) understands the function of the behavior and designs a program that is effective,
4) documents all procedures so the program can be used by multiple teachers,
5) uses research-driven behavioral concepts to develop techniques, and
6) generalizes to other settings, other behaviors, and across time.
ABA involves many different techniques, including Discrete Trial Training (DTT), Verbal Behavior (VB), Naturalistic or Incidental Teaching, and Pivotal Response Training (PRT). These ABA techniques can teach children with autism social skills, communication skills, adaptive behavior, executive functioning skills, and academic skills. ABA methodology can also be used to reduce disruptive or tantrum behavior. ABA can be used while the child is sitting at a table (which is what many people think of when they hear the term "ABA") or when a child is playing with peers at school. The ABA services at BNS are individualized for each child, developmentally appropriate for the child, and culturally sensitive to the family. The goal is to teach the child skills he/she can use in everyday life, across many settings and with many different people.
Discrete Trial Training (DTT)
DTT is an ABA technique used at MABAC and in our home-based or school-based services when a child needs practice and repetition of certain skills. DTT involves breaking a skill into parts, teaching each part to mastery, providing prompting and fading as necessary, and using reinforcement procedures. DTT is a great way to help a child practice specific skills needed to succeed in a more natural setting. For example, if the child is having trouble maintaining appropriate eye contact, he/she will have trouble learning from teachers or peers. DTT is used as a way to practice prerequisite skills, so these skills can be generalized to a more natural environment. Services at MABAC, in the home, and at the school allow for both the teaching of new skills as well as the practice of these skills in natural play settings.
Verbal Behavior (VB)
VB is an ABA technique used at MABAC and in our home-based or school-based services when a child needs to develop language. It is a very specific technique that involves teaching the child how to communicate with others by first teaching the child how to make requests to get his/her needs met. When a child learns that people are reinforcing because they can get their needs met by asking for things, then other forms of communication are taught, such as labeling, commenting, imitating, answering questions, and engaging in conversations. VB is a very effective way of teaching children to communicate, especially for children who do not yet have language.
Naturalistic or Incidental Training
Naturalistic or Incidental Teaching is an ABA technique used at MABAC and in our home-based or school-based services to help the child develop communication, social skills, adaptive behavior, and executive functioning skills in a more naturalistic setting (e.g., playing with toys on the floor). It involves following the child's interests and embedding opportunities to teach the child critical skills. For example, if the child is having trouble being flexible in their play, therapists help the child work on this skill by creating opportunities for the child to be flexible. As the child becomes more successful at being flexible, he/she will require less prompting from the behavior therapist. Unlike a Floortime approach, this technique requires systematic planning for what skills will be targeted and data collection to ensure that the child is meeting his/her goals.
Pivotal Response Training (PRT)
PRT is an ABA technique used at MABAC and in our home-based or school-based services to help the child develop communication, social skills, and play skills in a more naturalistic setting. This method targets pivotal areas of behavior (rather than specific skills), which leads to an improvement in autonomy, self-learning, and generalization of new skills. The pivotal areas include responsivity to multiple cues (i.e., the child can respond to the same thing said in different ways), motivation (i.e., the child shares control in materials and naturally reinforcing items are used), self-management (i.e., the child learns how to monitor his/her thoughts and behaviors), and self-initiations (i.e., the child learns how to initiate interactions with others). Like the other ABA techniques, PRT also has significant research support for helping children with autism make significant gains.
A Floortime approach considers the child's developmental level, individual characteristics that are unique to the child, and follows the child's interests. ABA Services offered at MABAC, in the home, or in the school all provide individualized programs that are tailored to the child's developmental level, unique abilities, and interests. Dr. Bennett's training in child development and psychology ensures that the developmental level of the child is an integral part of developing the individualized program for each child. Although Floortime is not used at BNS due to the lack of empirical support for this approach, Naturalistic or Incidental Teaching is an ABA technique that is similar to Floortime in many ways, and is well supported by research.