What Does a Typical Day of ABA Therapy Look Like?

Once a child receives a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), ABA therapy is the go-to treatment option recommended by doctors to help children overcome their developmental delays. Decades of evidence-based research support the effectiveness of ABA (applied behavior analysis), but for many families, ABA therapy is something they’ve never heard of before.

So, what goes on in a typical day of ABA therapy?

The first few days of ABA therapy are all about fun and play. Before therapists will dig into working on a child’s specific therapy goals, they want to make sure the child is comfortable in the new environment. The first handful of ABA therapy sessions are all about “pairing” – establishing a rapport, figuring out a child’s favorite toys and games, laughs, tickles, snacks and treats.

Once a relationship between the child and therapist is established, that’s when the work can begin. ABA is split into two main methods: Discrete Trial Training (DTT) and Natural Environment Training (NET).

DTT is more of what typical school lessons might look like. Kids will work on a specific task one-on-one with a therapist, sometimes across a table with books, iPads, and games. Therapists use the DTT teaching method to build skills like matching pictures, pointing to objects, imitation, sustaining eye contact, and learning how to make sounds and say words, to name a few.

NET is more of a naturalistic, play-based approach in which children may play more independently while being prompted by their therapist or socialize with others to master the skills needed to thrive in real-world settings. Many of the skills taught in DTT will also be woven into NET sessions to ensure those skills transfer over in an organic way.

At Action Behavior Centers, each team is structured with one BCBA supervisor and five certified therapists who implement lesson plans and oversee the progress of four children. We believe it’s important to always have an extra set of hands on deck and keep the caseloads at a manageable level to ensure the highest level of care and attention for our kids – quality over quantity!

Throughout the day, each child works through therapy sessions in a block rotation schedule with four different therapists – each session lasting 2 to 3 hours – to keep things fresh and help children generalize across therapy styles. Progress is tracked in an online software program called Skills® For Autism. Parents and physicians can stay updated with graphs and progress reports that outline daily success rates with therapy goals. Once a goal is mastered within Skills, children move on to tackle new challenges.

ABA therapy also covers a variety of day-to-day living skills like potty training, brushing teeth, holding eating utensils, getting dressed, self-regulating emotions, and more. The best way to think of ABA is as an all-encompassing approach to build skills in the areas needed to live out a valuable and fulfilling life – cognition, language, social skills, play skills, motor skills, executive functioning, and self-care.