Is ABA therapy effective for individuals who have cognitive disabilities?



Shannon: Is ABA Therapy effective for individuals who have cognitive disabilities?

Dr. Tarbox: Absolutely. And so we get this question a lot, and it's actually a very commonly misunderstood issue. There isn't a lot of long-term between groups design outcome research that shows large global benefits for individuals with autism and cognitive disabilities. The standard 30 to 40 hour week for two years or more, kids with significant cognitive disabilities and autism are not necessarily going to have the same outcomes from that overall treatment model. Or there isn't that much research showing those outcomes. However, that being said, the vast majority of research on autism is actually more targeted and focused on specific skills.

So how do we teach tooth brushing? How do we teach toilet training? How do we teach a child to ask for what he wants instead of having a tantrum? How do we teach a child to make his own sandwich when he's hungry, etc., right? So basic core important foundational skills. Hundreds of studies on using ABA procedures to teach these skills to folks on the spectrum, and it turns out a huge percentage of those folks also have some degree of cognitive disabilities. And I don't think anyone's actually done a review any time soon. That would actually be a great idea for a research review project. But almost all of these studies, especially with older kids. If you look, if you read the description of the kids who participated or adolescents who participated, almost all of them have some degree of cognitive disability as well.

So ABA is absolutely effective for teaching specific core life skills to people with autism spectrum disorder and cognitive disabilities.Shannon

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