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How is applied behavior analysis used to assist those with autism?

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In applied behavior analysis, or ABA, a trained parent or professional therapist works one-on one with an autistic person to teach correct behavior and social skills using a rewards system, reports About.com. The therapy is intensive and requires up to 40 hours of active participation per week. Most children, teens and adults who undergo ABA benefit from the therapy, and many learn to transfer their learned skills into real- world settings.

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Although older children benefit from ABA, it works best if therapists initiate training when children are under 5 years old, explains WebMD. Therapists create individualized programs to help children learn to communicate, socialize and develop academically, using various approaches to perfect skills. For instance, in discrete trial training, therapists prompt autistic children to respond to a cue and reward them if they behave properly.

Critics of ABA claim that it teaches autistic people to perform well in school or home environments but only with behavioral and speech patterns that they draw from discrete trial sessions, notes About.com. Many families have difficulty committing the time and financial resources to such an intensive program. Additionally, some autistic people do not thrive in a structured setting. However, the U.S. Surgeon General, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association all endorse ABA therapy.

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