Individualized ABA therapy for autism life-changing for some families

One in 59 kids in the United States has autism, and boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls.

There is no one standard treatment, with medication, occupational therapy and nutritional therapy all among the options. These days, some families are turning to an individualized approach, known as applied behavioral analysis.

David Gulacsy and his wife have a busy household that includes twin boys. As they grew, the twins began to do things out of the ordinary, such as hoarding their toys and throwing food.

So the Gulacsys took them for an evaluation.

“And immediately when we went there, it was like black and white to them. It was, ‘Yep, your kids are both on the spectrum.’ Your emotions are everywhere. It’s hard. It was very tough,” David said.

But the Gulacsys were committed to finding help for their family. David found a therapist who practiced applied behavior analysis or ABA. It’s a structured intervention that helps kids learn new behaviors and skills through repetition.

“I think ABA provides a good step-by-step approach to teaching all of those skills that you might find overwhelming at first,” explained Jaslin Goicoechea, a board certified assistant behavior analyst.

David said ABA helped with negative behaviors. Forty-minute temper tantrums became two minutes long. And it showed outside of the home as well.

“Going to the grocery store, if I said, ‘William, stop’ or ‘Evan, stop,’ they stopped. Whereas before they never would have done that,” David said.

ABA therapy also helps the twins with the skills they need for academic success. A structure that helps the Gulacsys put all the pieces together.

The amount of weekly therapy varies, but by some accounts, children do best when they have more than 20 hours of ABA weekly. Insurance coverage varies, not only by state, but by insurance company.

Parents should look for therapists who are board-certified behavior analysts. In most cases, they will have at least a master’s degree, and the letters BCBA after their names.