One of the biggest questions teachers face is how best to teach their students. Students with autism often have trouble understanding relationships and abstract concepts, which makes teaching them a particularly difficult task. This paper discusses five strategies that will help you better understand your autistic student, ultimately leading to more successful lessons.
If you’ve ever been in a therapeutic or educational environment, it’s possible that you came across instructors or experts who used behavior analysis teaching techniques to alter the conduct of the students. The majority of the time, ABA is utilized with children and people who have autism or another sort of developmental disability in the school, at home, and in a therapy environment. The five particular teaching techniques that will be discussed in this article are supported by research, are well-known in the fields of psychology and education, and have clear advantages for the client or student.
The objective of applied behavior analyzers is to dissect and analyze the basic human behaviors that the majority of people take for granted. applied behavior analysis or ABA, is generally recognized for the advantages it bestows upon teachers and pupils, despite the fact that the insights it provides have implications in a wide range of sectors, such as adult health and social sciences, jail reform, and social sciences.
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Behavior analysis, according to specialists at Autism Speaks aids in understanding:
- How behavior functions
- How the environment affects conduct
- How learning happens
ABA therapy applies our understanding of How behavior functions to real situations. The goal is to increase behaviors that are helpful and decrease behaviors that are harmful or affect learning.
Utilizing scientific data to enhance instructional and interactive tactics is central to Applied Behavior Analysis teaching methodologies. Students who seek ABA degrees in college are often better prepared to work as instructors or do research that benefits both teachers and students.
Numerous now-commonplace contemporary teaching techniques have their origins in ABA research. Here are five that you could have run into.
Teaching Techniques for ABA
While many teaching techniques have been shown to be successful in the classroom, five are thought to be the most efficient ABA-specific techniques that instructors should use on a regular basis.
Here are the five Teaching Techniques for ABA that will be covered.
- Disclosed Trial Instruction
- Nature-Based Education
- Intensive Response Therapy
- Economy of Tokens
- Variable Observation
1. Disclosed Trial Instruction
Some of the educational concepts students have to absorb are complex. While it seems like common sense to break a big task down into more manageable parts that are easier to teach, this is actually a key component of the ABA technique known as Disclosed Trial Instruction. Disclosed Trial Instruction, also referred to as Discrete Trial Training or learning, is firmly rooted in behavioral learning theory.
The component tasks of a behavior or skill are worked through using a cue-and-response system in DTT. According to this concept, a kid who responds to a prompt, also known as a discriminative stimulus, would subsequently get a consequence in the form of a reward, an adjustment for a mistake, a break, or another response.
Discrete trial training may assist instructors in interacting with pupils who are lacking in certain social skills, in addition to encouraging interaction with classmates and teachers. It’s also often utilized to draw attention to certain flaws so they may be strengthened.
Let’s examine a concrete instance of how this may be used in a classroom setting with a student by going through the DTT’s five training procedures.
- Antecedent (or Discriminative Stimulus)
Luke, an ASD student in the second grade, receives a cue from his Special Education teacher to point to the image in a sequence that depicts someone lending a helpful hand.
Luke may get a specific form of prompt (such as a gestural or verbal prompt) to help him discover the right response if he looks to be struggling, depending on his IEP accommodations and/or goal prompting levels. In this instance, Luke points to the wrong image at first, but his instructor provides him a vocal reminder in the form of a tip, reminding him of a lesson they learned about “useful behaviors.”
The child’s conduct in reaction to the discriminative stimulus is known as the response. In this instance, Luke responds to his teacher’s verbal suggestion by pointing to the appropriate image.
- Consequences of the Right and Wrong Responses
Luke is given a verbal commendation since he was able to respond to the question within the one prompt specified in his IEP. If he answers five questions correctly, he will also be given a sticker of his choosing. These incentives—which are examples of beneficial outcomes—should be delivered right away and determined upon before the DTT starts.
After two or three reminders, Luke would have been regarded to have made an entirely erroneous response, and no encouragement would have been offered. Here, his instructor should just say, “Let’s go on to the next question,” and no penalty is necessary.
Simply said, this is the phrase used in technical language to denote the conclusion of one trial (or issue in this instance) and the start of another. It should just last for a few seconds since it is not advised to wait a long period between tries (or questions). Luke waits for the following question with patience.
The instructor will utilize a particular form while conducting a DTT session with a student to document any actions, answers, or results. This form is simple to create on a computer, but the Special Education department of the school or an ABA should be able to provide a template to the teacher.
2. Nature-Based Education
Nature-Based Education is the second common ABA teaching strategy used. It focuses on letting the student set the pace of learning in the context of their regular daily routines. By following their students’ interests and offering coaching and feedback on target behaviors as they occur, teachers are still able to act as mediators, but by giving the learner more control over their learning, minimizing problematic behaviors that might otherwise interfere with learning.
Naturalistic teaching techniques may also be simpler for parents, siblings, and others to use to support students outside of the classroom, according to the advocacy group Autism Speaks. These methods are also renowned for aiding rehabilitation and for giving students skills that are generally applicable.
Three Nature-Based Education strategies commonly used in the classroom include:
Teachers, ABA therapists speech and occupational therapists, as well as other professionals, may all employ incidental instruction to help students with their language and communication abilities. Students who are already proficient in a language should use this.
“When instructors, therapists, or parents utilize incidental teaching, they make advantage of play and other organic learning opportunities to help kids improve their abilities. As youngsters grow closer to the desired behavior, they encourage their efforts to act in that manner. (Family Planning).
The major goal of this kind of instruction is to create an engaging atmosphere for the students so they may engage with or request the toys they wish to play with.
- training for pivotal responses
“training for pivotal responses focuses less on select behaviors like getting a child to communicate, and takes a broader approach by looking at the things that are “pivotal” to the child’s behavior – what motivates their behavior, how they respond (or don’t respond) to social interaction, how they manage (or don’t manage) their own feelings and behaviors. The idea is to address the cause of behaviors rather than just the individual behaviors themselves,” (ABAedu).
Motivation, initiation, self-regulation, and reacting to various stimuli are the four primary “pivotal” regions.
- Model for Natural Language
“Model for Natural Language (NLP) is based on the understanding that learning can be helped by deliberate arrangement of the environment in order to increase opportunities to use language. NLP emphasizes the child’s initiative. It uses natural reinforcers that are consequences related directly to the behavior, and it encourages skill generalization,” (ThriveAutismCenter).
For non-verbal pupils, this is most suitable.
3. Intensive Response Therapy
Even though this was already mentioned as part of Nature-Based Education, this is actually considered an important applied behavior analysis teaching strategy on its own.
Intensive Response Therapy, or PRT, builds on Nature-Based Education, yet it provides a bit more structure. While still student-directed, this method focuses specifically on improving core skills such as motivation, being able to respond to more than one cue, induction into social structures, self regulation, and other critical development areas.
It is not a coincidence that PRT concentrates on teaching crucial behaviors. Supporters of the technique claim that by enhancing these crucial abilities, people with autism spectrum disorders may advance in other areas. The methodology was created expressly to assist people with autism spectrum disorders. Notably, PRT was named one of four evidence-based autism intervention strategies in a thorough assessment of 33 autism therapies conducted by Richard Simpson and colleagues.
4. Economy of Tokens
Token economies encourage learning by promoting or discouraging certain actions. Tokens, often referred to as conditioned reinforcers, work similarly to money in the real world in that they are typically given or taken away in response to predetermined actions.
Tokens can take many forms, such as points, stickers or even marbles and other simple counters. Unlike Disclosed Trial Instruction rewards, the token systems aren’t necessarily dependent on providing the correct responses to given stimuli, and they may incorporate exchange methods. For instance, at the beginning of the semester, teachers might tell students they can earn points for completing assignments on time and allow them to trade in these tokens for privileges later.
The following Dos and Don’ts of a Economy of Tokens come from Autism Helper:
- Choose behaviors to target that are incongruent with bad behaviors.
- Include many different reinforcers.
- Establish a delivery timetable for reinforcement.
- Do maintain consistency across all students, disciplines, and classes.
- Be joyful and ecstatic.
- Plan for distinctiveness and don’t forget the graphics.
- Make sure your reinforcers have “costs” that can be met.
- Do not combine praise and tokens.
- Do collect data.
- Do develop a fading strategy.
- Choose age-appropriate tokens wherever possible.
- Don’t allow your kids to go “bankrupt” without the chance to earn additional rewards.
- Don’t forget to use reinforcers after the fact.
- Don’t make purchasing reinforcers too expensive.
- Never abandon the same method year after year.
- Avoid overcomplicating it.
5. Variable Observation
Variable Observation is a method of controlling disruptive behavior and is frequently employed with groups of young children. In essence, individuals who exhibit inappropriate behaviors are given instruction on better ways to act. Then they’re asked to remove themselves from the social group temporarily while they watch the other students behaving appropriately.
You may have experienced something similar in the form of a timeout. Unlike punitive measures, such as simply telling a disruptor to go stand in a corner, Variable Observation focuses on having students learn from peer examples.
Studies have shown that participating in a Variable Observation procedure instead of simply being verbally redirected was “considerably more effective” in controlling inappropriate behaviors such as classroom disruption or aggression.
Teaching Methods for Applied Behavior Analysis:
Applied Behavior Analysts have a wide variety of strategies in their proverbial toolbox they can use with their students and clients. Any proven-to-work, research-based strategy can be appropriate for a student, as long as it fits the situation and is meant for a similar population. The five Applied Behavior Analysis teaching strategies discussed in this article are each based upon sound research and have been proven to work with students with autism and developmental disorders. The key is for the adult working with the student to be trained on the procedures and steps of the strategy they want to use with a student and ensure consistency and accuracy take place. Students can be even more successfully academically and behaviorally when Teaching Techniques for ABA are used with them.
January 2021 revision
“Applied Behavior Analysis Teaching Strategies” is a book that provides 5 teaching strategies to help children with autism. The strategies are “Teaching-to-Learn, Teaching-by-Example, Teaching-Through-Praise, Teaching-Through-Rules and Teaching-Through-Rewards.” Reference: aba therapy techniques pdf.
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Janice is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Special Education. She also holds a Master of Science in Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) from Queen’s University, Belfast. She has worked with and case managed children and youth with autism and other intellectual and/or developmental disabilities in home and residential setting since 2013.