ABA Therapy VS Occupational Therapy (Can They Work Together?)

ABA Therapy – An Overview

Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) is a common therapy that aims to improve social, communication, and learning skills for children with autism through positive reinforcement. ABA therapy is recommended by experts to be the gold-standard treatment for children with autism, or any developmental conditions or disorders.

Chicago ABA therapy aims to teach new skills, reduce problem behavior, and enhance the academic, vocational, and social life of children. Moreover, certain destructive behaviors are also defined and targeted for elimination, using an individually planned approach. 

In this therapy, replacement skills are taught and retained. Overall, ABA therapies’ goal is to significantly improve the quality of life of an individual, and also that of people closest to them.

Occupational Therapy – An Overview

Occupational therapy, on the other hand, is designed to help improve an individual’s motor, cognitive, sensory processing, communication, and play skills. Occupational therapists promote the participation of children and their families in everyday routines in early intervention, by addressing activities of daily living, rest, sleep, play, education, and social participation. 

It enhances a family’s ability to care for their child and promotes their development. It also helps promote participation in the child’s natural environment. Occupational therapy in Chicago evaluates the child first and then identifies activities that parents and caregivers can initiate throughout the day in order to reinforce a skill in their child, improve their sensory processing, and enable them to learn new things. For instance, parents of a specific child might be concerned about their child’s inability to hold food themselves. 

Therefore, an occupational therapist will work with the child’s family to practice skills related to eating, such as grasping and holding small things. The therapist, along with the parents, will develop strategies to adapt meal times with larger pieces of food their child can easily hold. 

Through occupational therapy, children learn skills they will use on a daily or frequent basis.  However, this isn’t the case for ABA therapy. An ABA therapy tends to program for generalization by teaching skills in one setting, and systematically generalize skills to other settings and people over time.

Differences and Similarities Between ABA Therapy and Occupational Therapy

ABA therapy and occupational therapy have, however, several similarities. Both therapies seek to help people discover and improve areas of function, and both treat individuals that need help in adjusting to family, friends, social, work, or school environments

Both therapies support improved abilities to learn, communicate, and function independently. Moreover, both fields involve the study of psychology and human communications and require extensive training in cultural diversity. Both fields make use of direct professional to client treatment and require extensive training in professional ethics.

The most apparent difference between the goals of ABA and occupational therapy are the objectives and priorities of both treatment strategies. As mentioned earlier, occupational therapists generally focus on the acquisition of specific skills or abilities and can range from daily activities or small tasks like handwriting. 

In this type of therapy, therapists set secondary objectives that lead up to the ultimate goal of skill acquisition. Occupational therapy is mostly confined to the activities and environmental factors that are related to the specific goals of the therapy.

Combining ABA Therapy and Occupational Therapy

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is often used in conjunction with occupational therapy to help patients improve their overall quality of life, as it is proven to help manage a wide spectrum of behavioral disorders. 

Applied behavior analysis is one of the many different professional practices that occupational therapists may combine into a treatment regime, depending on the needs and goals of their patient/customer. Numerous behavior analysts and occupational therapists work together with children who are diagnosed with Autism, while others help impaired adults adapt to a new lifestyle.

Studies have shown that these two therapies work great together in helping in the development of children for behavior skills, self-care skills, and social skills. Numerous occupational therapists seek help and intervention services from ABA professionals, for a broader treatment plan. 

Conventional behavior analysis is used in most cases as a reliable and practical solution to treating numerous behavioral issues that can affect an individual’s ability to fully participate in the therapy. Occupational therapists may combine behavior analysis sessions on an as-needed basis, as they make progress towards the ultimate goal of skill acquisition.

A comprehensive occupational therapy includes a complete examination and analysis of environmental factors that can influence a patient, for example, their home, school, and social life. This level of personalized care goes with ABA therapy as the basic practices of behavior analysis are useful for managing behavioral concerns in almost any aspect. These practices, mostly, are provided on an in-home basis as well as in clinics.

A combination of both therapies can help treat autistic patients. This is possible as occupational therapists use sensory integration therapy to treat autistic children who show obsessive behavior and will often attempt to substitute actions that mimic the sensory aspects of engaging in those activities.

Benefits of Combining ABA Therapy and Occupational Therapy

Combining occupational therapy with ABA therapy has several benefits. Other than reaching the ultimate goal of the therapy, both therapies are highly goal-oriented, which can help therapists quantify results and create an accurate roadmap towards success. Measuring progress is imperative to apply scientific methodology in order to improve treatment over time. Therefore, a synergy between the two practices helps provide therapists with an effective and powerful tool to help their clients achieve major life objectives and overcome obstacles as well.

Occupational therapists can also benefit from the strong data collection and analysis that ABA brings to the table. For instance, ABA therapists conducting their Functional Behavior Analysis (FBA) share the data gathered with their occupational therapy colleagues, who can then both introduce their own treatments and measure the efficacy as the ABA continues to make observations.

There is not much room for doubt that ABA therapy is an imperative part of almost any type of occupational therapy treatment program. Its adaptable and flexible nature makes it an important tool that therapists can make use of to limit problematic behaviors and encourage positive ones. 

Qualified practitioners of applied behavior analysis have numerous opportunities to use their skills in conjunction with occupational therapy, aimed to help patients develop a more productive and satisfying life.

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