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Starting ABA at almost 7? good idea or not worth it?

(19 Posts)
eskimomama Mon 09-May-16 09:37:21


DD is 6.5, ASD and non verbal. We never started ABA before because there was none available near us and also we weren't too keen either on the reinforcer method. The team who did the dx when DD was 2 actually told us it didn't work with every child, especially those who are responding well to verbal encouragements and have a very limited range of interests/passions, like DD.

However school is complicated. We live in France, so the choice is very limited here. She has weekly sessions of speech and occupational therapy and goes to mainstream school with an aide 4 mornings a week. Next year she should go to a special needs class but it might not be an ASD only classroom, which we are worried about as DD would find a non ASD class very difficult at this stage.

Lately we were offered to start ABA at a nearby ABA center, but not 100% sure as DD is already 6 and they prefer taking children from the age of 2/3.

Do you guys think it's worth it starting at her age? Our speech therapist is unsure as DD is already "used" to other methods like TEACCH and mainstream school ways that aren't compatible with ABA (??)... and thinks it might just confuse her completely. But her only suggestion is that we keep DD at home and make her do exercises at home... not ideal either!

PECS is very difficult to implement at home, always been complicated, I don't know if it's me who never pushed for it properly or if it doesn't suit her, or both.

Regardless she is still non verbal with loads of communication/interaction difficulties and as she gets older these become harder and harder.

Is it worth starting ABA so late? WWYD?

whatamess0815 Mon 09-May-16 12:44:01

I would certainly give it a go esp as you didn't make much progress with the other approaches. I know a few children (teens) who are still on ABA programmes and are making good progress.

2boysnamedR Mon 09-May-16 17:06:11

Not tried ABA but I do think it's worth trying new things to see what helps best. My county use PECs but it doesn't suit my son very well. Just because it's the standard offering doesn't mean it's the best option. My DS is four and non verbal. I'm getting my head round that might never talk so we are trying a few methods to communicate and he can show us which works for him

fanjoforthemammaries7850 Mon 09-May-16 17:07:53

Very worth it. Started with dD at same age and it helped her a lot.

eskimomama Mon 09-May-16 17:51:15

Thank you all.
fanjoforthemammaries that's great news. Did they have to adapt their methods for your DD's age at all? I'm thinking of all the food reinforcers that will just not work with DD, but might have worked when she was 3... Also she has a much stronger will and stronger habits now, and I was afraid ABA might be too "rigid" to deal with that.

whatamess0815 Mon 09-May-16 18:30:08

OP, really no idea where you got the idea of food reinforcers from. ABA should use a wide variety of reinforcers and these depend on your DD (I.e.what she finds reinforcing). we never used food

PandasRock Mon 09-May-16 18:43:02

We've never used food reinforcers either. Dd1's (ABA) school did, for a while, but that was more for convenience than because they had to. They stopped when I asked them to. Reinforcers we've used include:

Short burst of dvd
Posting cards into a postbox
Me saying a a particular noise/sound/phrase
Playing a short game with peers/siblings/parents, eg Shopping List
More recently, having hair done/nails painted.
Cracking eggs
Conversations with other tutors/school staff (dd1 is verbal, and nosey grin)

ABA is not just for young children, and it is not just one thing. There is no reason why it wouldn't suit your dd, and if done well, ABA is the very opposite of rigid.

I am very pro-ABA (dd1 is nearly 12, and has had some form of ABA - either home programme or ABA school - since she was 3. She needs it as much now as she did then, but what she needs, and how it is delivered has changed a lot over that time) so I would say give it a go

eskimomama Mon 09-May-16 19:06:50

Thank you whatamess and pandasrock.
It sounds very encouraging as long as everything is adapted to the child. ABA does have an image of rigidity, or making the child adapt no matter what rather than the other way round. But it seems to be working.
I was also wondering how the reinforcers would work as DD has issues understanding "you get xyz after you do xzy". The whole "after" concept is difficult for her.

fanjoforthemammaries7850 Mon 09-May-16 19:18:16

Yes we used all sorts of reinforcers.. Often just tickling and attention.

PandasRock Mon 09-May-16 19:32:20

I am a bit concerned that your opinion of ABA is 'making the child adapt no matter what' That is nothing like anything we've ever experienced (home programme with several different tutors, then 2 different ABA schools over the last 7 years, with countless tutors over that time).

There is a lot of talk about compliance, but the crux of the matter is not ever placing a demand that the child cannot meet. A lot of time is spent initially building up trust and a good relationship (usually known as 'pairing').

Dd1 has just started working with a new tutor at school. She has been at the school for 5 years, and knows everyone well. this tutor has been a part of dd1's class since Septemebr, but not worked directly with dd1. For the last 2 weeks, dd1 has been pairing with this tutor - someone she has known to chat to for months (if not longer) and has seen every day - so lots of high reinforcement, dd1's favourite activities, known tasks, and no new 'work'. Thi idea being that dd1 learns that being with this new tutor is a rewarding experience - she can manage the work, she gets to play her favourite games, she has a great time all round - before any new demands are placed.

amberlight Mon 09-May-16 20:13:59

Personally not an ABA fan, having listened to too many adults who have been through it. But all depends which ABA practitioner and what they make of the basics. My concerns remain around the reinforcers and how that works, and what we decide is worth reinforcing. And whether that respects autism's differences. Some ABA practitioners do respectful work. Others, less so. Go with your instincts.

AgnesDiPesto Mon 09-May-16 22:05:39

Lots of programmes and schools merge ABA and other approaches. SCERTS for e.g. can include ABA and TEACCH.
usually people who say ABA conflicts with other approaches have little personal practical knowledge of ABA.
My son goes to mainstream school with ABA support and it merges without any problems, a good aba practitioner will make the programme fit the child and the setting they are in.
A local school uses ABA and other approaches - it takes children from age 11. Staff say the children who have done ABA before they join come much more ready to learn and with better skills / independence. But the children who haven't done it before make really good progress - much faster progress than they were making at their previous schools.
So 6 is not too late, but I would be a bit worried about the lack of expertise with that age group, but then as you say you are not being offered much of an alternative.

eskimomama Tue 10-May-16 16:34:28

Thanks amberlight and agnesdipesto.
I know what you mean with the reinforcers, ABA critics often say children learn to do things only to get a reward instead of learbing to do them spontaneously - then rely on the reward. Then ABA people say that their job is also to gradually take the reinforcers away... at the same time children on the spectrum have difficulties to see the point of doing various things that seem logical to NT kids. So why not.

Agnesdipesto how many ABA hours a week does your son get on top of mainstream school? Did he get more hours when he was younger?
Thanks for telling me about this school starting from 11.

AgnesDiPesto Tue 10-May-16 21:15:48

He gets 35 hours ABA a week. 19 ABA hours are in school and 16 out of school. He's had this since age 3 (he's now 9) but we had to go to tribunal to get it. its
not usual to get as much as this. Mainly we won it because we live in an area where there is no alternative.

He doesn't go to the ABA school i mentioned (but might when he's older).

Like others have said the ABA has changed a lot as he has got older. In school they hang back and let him be independent and just move in to support him when necessary.

Bananasinpyjamas1 Tue 10-May-16 22:55:23

I think so much is missed in the polarised ABA debate - which just seems so sad. Kids who do respond could be missing out. In my humble opinion.

ALL therapies and approaches, use some kind of reward based system, all teaching does in 'mainstream' schools too - primary gives star stickers. Sorry, I know this is obvious in a way, but just because it is very clear in ABA.

OP I'd just view this purely from what your child responds to. I have no problem giving my ASD child some crisps in ABA or my older NT child ice cream if they have tidied their room. It's just how much and how often.

Feeding a child crisps all the time does feel a bit like puppy training, it doens't feel natural, so I don't do it very much. My child likes praise, tickles, and a feeling of having done something well. So those are mostly the rewards.

My child doesn't like sitting still for ages, so we don't. My ASD child does not like being asked to do too much, so it is tiny, tiny steps. My child quickly gets used to the order of things, so I have to vary any ABA all the time or he will not accept anything new. It feels better to give my child choices sometimes, to follow their lead a lot of the time, but not to be all over the place with rules, be consistent, as with any other child. I don't see why my child has to stop swimming or waving his hands, it doesn't get in the way of anything. I'm there to help him learn to communicate, and to tolerate a little more of what he finds hard but that is important to his wellbeing e.g. Tooth brushing.

As your child is older, then they need to be treated with more independence and respect as any other child that age should be. Any therapy or learning should be about meeting a child in the middle - never forcing or pushing too hard.

If I were you I'd get stuck in OP and speak to the ABA providers, and his TEACCH and school and be the person who does tie it all together. See how it all affects your child and be willing to step in if it seems to not be working or be crossing a line - whether it is ABA or anything else. Our kids deserve the best of everything, and also need our protection if anything is distressing or harming them. Good luck! You sound very caring.

fanjoforthemammaries7850 Tue 10-May-16 22:56:25

We saw good results with 2 hours per week

Bananasinpyjamas1 Tue 10-May-16 22:56:39

Stimming - not swimming!!! Autocorrect!

StarlightMcKenzee Wed 11-May-16 17:41:57


eskimo My DS is 9, verbal, with national curriculum averages, with a possibility of mainstream secondary. He attends an ABA unit attached to a mainstream school. He is currently 60% integrated with around half of that being independently. It is increasing as he learns the skills to learn in that way. There is nothing rigid about his programme and he is NEVER given food as a reinforcer.

You can't avoid reinforcement. The environment gives it all the time. Our feedback for our behaviours, affect our behaviours. Skilled practitioners manage to manipulate the environment so that progressing isn't aversive and in fact is rewarding.

The ethics in ABA comes from not how to teach, but what to teach. Do you teach a child not to fidget? Bonkers if they need to, to focus their mind. Do you teach them not to put their hands down their pants in public, - of course, regardless of whether it helps them focus their mind.

eskimomama Fri 13-May-16 09:09:42

Thanks Bananasinpyjamas and starlightmckenzie
I've been thinking about what you say on reinforcers and it's good to read that reinforcers can be "just" praise, tickles and feeling of having done something well. It must be tough to be a good ABA educator though, and full dedication to the child's unique personality/motivations.

Very true for my DD as well about getting used to the way things are done. It's comforting for a while until it becomes a rigidity issue.

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