By: Heyde Ramirez MA, BCBA, NYS LBA & Frank Kou MSEd, BCBA, NYS LBA

When a family receives ABA therapy, oftentimes parents wonder: “What is happening?” and “What is this person doing to my child that is helping?” The most important question they ask is, “Will this work?”

To help concerned parents wondering if ABA is the right therapy for their child, here are five behavioral therapy techniques that actually work to help reduce problem behavior.

1 – Differential Reinforcement of Alternative Behavior (DRA)

Using this technique, a problem behavior is reduced by reinforcing a different behavior. For example, John hits his peers to get their attention. During ABA therapy, John gets lots of attention and praise for using his words instead of hitting others to gain attention. John learns to use his words because he can earn the attention he seeks without hurting others. The DRA in this example is getting attention for “using words” instead of “hitting.”

2 – Differential Reinforcement of Incompatible Behavior (DRI)

Using this behavioral therapy technique, a problem behavior is reduced by reinforcing the complete opposite behavior. For example, John always gets up from his seat in class, which gets him attention when the teacher yells at him. During ABA therapy, John gets attention and praise for being in his seat, which he likes. John learns to remain in his seat in class. The DRI in this example is getting attention and praise for being in his seat rather than getting up from his seat.

3 – Differential Reinforcement of Other Behavior (DRO)

Using this technique, a problem behavior is reduced by delivering reinforcement when that problem behavior does not occur during specific times. For example, John likes to pull strands of his hair when he does his work. During ABA therapy, a 5-minute timer will be set and John will get rewarded for not pulling his hair during the 5 minutes. When he pulls his hair, the timer is reset. The DRO in this example is being rewarded for not pulling his hair.

4 – Premack Principal

Using this behavioral therapy technique, an ABA technician will encourage a child to complete a non-preferred activity by following the activity with the opportunity to complete a highly preferred activity. Think of this like Grandma’s Rule: “First eat your broccoli and then you can have desert.” This increases the probability that the child will complete the non-preferred activity. For example, John does not want to complete his math homework because it is hard and boring. During ABA therapy, John gets to watch his favorite cartoon only after he completes his math homework.

5 – Token Economy

Using this technique, a child learns how to earn tokens for engaging in positive behavior. These tokens can then be exchanged for a variety of preferred items and activities. Think of this like an allowance: “If you clean your room, you will earn $2 towards your video game.” Not only can this technique be effective for teaching new skills, but it also helps teach children how to tolerate instruction for increased periods of time and respond to more natural conditions of reinforcement (e.g., earning money to buy something vs. earning the item itself). For example, John’s teacher notices that he is not participating in class. During ABA therapy, John is given a token every time he raises his hand to participate in class. At the end of class he exchanges his tokens for time to play his favorite iPad game.

These are just a few of the many ABA techniques that can be used to increase desirable behavior and decrease non-desired behavior. Remember, ABA is a toolbox where the data guides the treatment, so techniques should always be tailored to the individual needs of the child, guided by the data, and overseen by a qualified professional such as a BCBA® or Licensed Behavior Analyst.

For more information on how Attentive Behavior Care can help your child, contact us today.