Reach For The Stars Pediatric Therapy Blog

Reach For The Stars with this pediatric therapy and autism services blog by the national early intervention company Achieve Beyond serving CA, CT, FL, MD, NJ, NY and VA continuing to expand. This blog features stories about special needs children, professional therapists and editorials for special needs parents.

What exactly is Modern Day ABA?

By: Gina M. Ballone, MS, BCBA, LBA -

When you hear the phrase “Applied Behavior Analysis,” what is the first thing you think of? Most people would say “autism” or “a type of therapy”. The main reason for writing this article is to debunk any misconceptions or myths about ABA and explain how it has evolved over the years. The first myth is that it is a “therapy”. ABA is a science devoted to the understanding and improvement of human behavior, which focuses on objectively defining observable behaviors of social significance (Cooper, Heron & Howard, 1987). The principles of the science, or rather field of study, are applied in an ABA therapy program. The reason it’s important to point out that it’s a science is to give it significant credit as “empirically based”. There have been over 550 studies published, revealing significant changes in the increase of language, communication, socialization, and appropriate behavior. Most of these studies are published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis and the journal, The Analysis of Verbal Behavior. As a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, I will admit that the reason I pursued a career in this line of work is because I know it works. What I mean by this is that I have personally seen amazing changes in children once they receive the treatment of ABA/Verbal Behavior. Besides the “personal” note, as an objective clinician, there is so much empirical data that reveals significant changes in learning. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of so-called “treatments” for children with Autism currently, but only a few are considered validly evidence-based. This is important to point out because time is precious; nobody wants to explore treatments that can actually be detrimental to their child’s well-being or their bank account! ABA is rated the number one evidence-based treatment, it is even recommended by the Surgeon General. With all of this great news, you may ask yourself “why don’t all children get this treatment”? Sadly, some insurance companies will not cover the cost of ABA. The cost of treatment is difficult for most families. Also, many parents have read or heard various “misconceptions” that have deterred them from getting services. I conducted an assessment a few months ago, and the mother of the child was so ecstatic after the assessment and told me that she was so relieved at how “nice” I was to her child. I seemed kind of confused by this statement, but she later explained that she was told not to get ABA services because ABA is “mean, harsh and intensive”. That is absolutely a myth. The word “intensive” is usually attached to ABA because of the many hours that we like to work one-on-one with children. When you compare an average 30 minutes of speech therapy twice a week to 10 hours of ABA in a week, I guess ABA is definitely termed as “intensive”. Another myth regarding ABA is that it is like “boot camp therapy”. ABA is anything but that. However, ABA may have been more rigid in the 1960’s . . . but this is the year 2013. Actually, ABA is NOT sitting at a table, being drilled with flashcards. It is an amazing approach in which you first develop a rapport with the child. We call this a “pairing” process, in which the therapist wants to become a “conditioned reinforcer” . . . we sometimes joke and call this “becoming the cookie”. We want the child to enjoy being around us, and associate us with access to preferred items. The entire premise of the treatment is teaching through motivational variables. The teaching consists of learning time at the table, but also learning within the natural environment (NET) through play and socialization. We have objective data to measure and analyze progress in all areas of learning. All skills are broken down and thoroughly analyzed, therefore giving the child the pre-requisite skills needed in order to master higher level skills. The teaching utilizes a positive and fun learning environment.

 As Autism increases in prevalence, we must focus on the positive side. We are fortunate to have treatment that is effective. As scientists and researches are studying the causes of Autism, Behavior Analysts are treating Autism with significant and hopeful outcomes. If you would like more information on Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis, please visit

About the Writer:
Gina Ballone, MS, BCBA, LBA is the Clinical Director of ABA Services. She has been in the field of ABA for over 15 years. She received her Master’s degree from Florida State University where she learned under the renowned Dr. Jon Bailey. She has also served as a Clinical Supervisor of the ABA department at the Dan Marino Center, Miami Children’s Hospital where she was able to train and collaborate with other disciplines of pediatric therapy services. She later became the Clinical Director of an ABA children’s therapy clinic in Destin, Florida and served as a practicum supervisor for Florida State University’s ABA program for over 8 years. She is very passionate about Verbal Behavior Methodology and Social Skills training. When not working, Gina enjoys making jewelry, cooking, playing tennis and traveling!


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Wednesday, 27 May 2020

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