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ABA Therapy vs. Occupational Therapy

If you are in the research stage of finding the right therapy for your child, getting to know more about some of the most studied and practiced approaches can help you filter through your available options. Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) and occupational therapy have shown impressive results for children with autism seeking positive influences on their mental and physical capabilities.

Compare ABA and occupational therapy approaches and benefits to see which option could fit your child’s needs.

What Is ABA Therapy?

Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy focuses on helping children with autism learn behaviors appropriate and useful in public environments, social situations, and at home. Through individualized sessions that prioritize finding social, cognitive, and motor skills that your child and their designated board-certified behavioral analyst can work on together, behavior improvements can appear naturally over time.

The proven benefits of ABA therapy include the following:

  • Family-focused plans to involve parents, siblings, and guardians in the ABA process.
  • Regulating emotions to decrease behavioral challenges.
  • Creating relationships with other children through group learning and play.
  • Overcoming your child’s obstacles together as a team.
  • Preparing children for future school and career opportunities.
  • Encouraging a sense of independence.
  • Teaching essential motor skills, including holding objects, going to the bathroom, and dressing.

With thousands of studies compiling the effects of ABA therapy for children with autism, ABA has become one of the most researched practices today. One of the most famous studies demonstrating the benefits of ABA therapy showed a 47% improvement in children’s motor, communication, and socialization skills in school. While this number was impressive for practices that had been only two decades old at the time, the improvements continue to show today as more behavioral analysts and individuals on the spectrum become interested in ABA therapy.

What Is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy is a different approach to teaching useful behaviors and actions to children with autism. Similar to ABA therapy, children participating in occupational therapy can learn effective communication skills and interact with children through group work or play. Occupational therapy also focuses more on improving a child’s motor skills to increase participation in everyday activities.

As children, we once played with our friends and classmates to pass the time or use our imagination. At a young age, we didn’t know how important playing was for building friendships, developing effective communication skills, and taking steps to act and move through imaginary scenarios. Occupational therapy uses a similar approach by letting children with autism learn basic skills, such as bathing, getting dressed, and eating, through playful activities with an occupational therapist and other children.

Other benefits of occupational therapy include:

  • Assessing sensory processing issues.
  • Developing awareness and coordination.
  • Addressing over and under sensitivity.

How Are ABA and Occupational Therapy Different?

You will find the main difference between occupational and ABA therapy in each practice’s approach to improving chosen skill sets. While your child can find similar benefits and positive outcomes from participating in either therapy option, the journey to getting to those observable results in your child’s behavior can significantly differ between ABA and occupational therapy.

Let’s use an example of learning to get dressed to see the difference between these two therapy practices.

If a child finds getting dressed challenging, an occupational therapy approach demonstrates the correct way to put on a shirt, pants, and shoes through actions. The therapist can offer real examples that show the child the easiest ways to get dressed to avoid running into this challenge again. The child may also receive alternative dressing methods, including finding shirts with zippers rather than buttons or shoes with Velcro instead of shoelaces.

During this process, the child learns ways to adapt to everyday situations, making it easier for them to complete tasks at their own pace.

If this same situation occurs for a child in ABA therapy, the board-certified behavioral analyst will encourage them to communicate this obstacle out loud to get a better idea of what specifically makes this everyday task a challenge to complete. Talking through a problem can bring a solution to light while an analyst is there to help and guide them toward a specific goal.

If the child can communicate the need for help or express the need to get dressed, they can work together with their board-certified behavioral analyst to find the most straightforward solution as a team. They will also use positive language and treats as a reward system to encourage the child to continue focusing on these adaptations to daily tasks independently.

Similarities of ABA and Occupational Therapy

While the approaches to ABA and occupational therapy differ, the focus areas these practices aim to improve are relatively similar. If your child could use assistance with communication and positive interactions with others, both ABA and occupational therapy could help! With proven benefits that can offer children with autism the opportunity to create lasting relationships through meaningful conversation and empathetic discussions, either option can increase the likelihood of these improvements in your child’s behavior.

The common benefits of ABA and occupational therapy that both practices share include the following:

  • Teaching self-care so children can learn to bathe, dress and eat independently.
  • Improving play to promote healthy relationships with other children.
  • Targeting motor skills to improve balance and movements.
  • Transitions children to adulthood for workforce and schooling opportunities.
  • Learning how to gain a sense of independence.
  • Customized lesson plans and sessions to work toward an individual’s unique goals.

How Do I Know if ABA Is Right for My Child?

ABA is a fascinating approach to improving behaviors in public settings and at home. However, it is essential to note that the same therapy sessions may work differently for each child engaging in these activities. The approach to learning behaviors and actions can differ for everyone, and the benefits of ABA for each child might only come to light once they can participate in these one-on-one sessions.

The most efficient way to see if ABA is right for your child is to meet with a trusted and experienced behavioral analyst and assess how your child responds to the analyst’s practices. A trial run can give you a glimpse into the future long-term benefits of investing time in ABA therapy.

The dedicated team at BehaviorCraft can help make this discovery easier! Our board-certified behavioral analysts will get to know your child and develop an individualized ABA plan to work toward improved behaviors as a team.

Find ABA Therapy At BehaviorCraft

If you think your child could benefit from the positive impact of ABA therapy, BehaviorCraftpart of the Kids SPOT Family of Companies — can help them on their journey! Our team prioritizes individualized play-based ABA sessions for each child to find an approach that works with their mental and physical capabilities to see growth in the future. Your child will work with one of our behavior analyst technicians to focus on the efficiency of one-on-one appointments. Family members are welcome to sit in on these therapy sessions to learn how ABA looks and works for their child’s behavioral improvements.

Contact us today with any questions about our ABA services.