When a child shows behavior difficulties and has experienced an impactful, traumatic event in the past, a sensitive, individualized approach to therapy is needed.
That approach is known as trauma-informed ABA.
ABA is an evidence-based therapy approach that aims to increase a child’s positive behaviors and reduce negative behaviors that might interfere with daily activities. Trauma-informed care in ABA recognizes the profound impact that a traumatic experience has on an individual and provides a compassionate, healing oriented, holistic approach to behavior therapy.
Let’s explore more about what trauma-informed care in ABA is, the underlying principles of the approach, and how parents can seek services for their child.
In order to understand what trauma-informed care in ABA is, it’s important to have a clear understanding of trauma itself.
Trauma can be defined as: experiences that cause intense physical and psychological stress reactions.
Between 50 to 60% of individuals have reported experiencing at least one instance of trauma in their lifetime. Individuals with developmental disabilities have been shown to have a higher risk of experiencing adverse events such as trauma.
Principles of Trauma-Informed Care in ABA
From the beginning, and throughout the course of treatment, a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach is critical. The ABA provider will discuss the child’s history through a parent/caregiver interview, including details about previous trauma and their desired goals for therapy.
- Sensory Support. Individuals who have experienced trauma may show sensitivity to certain types of sensory input. To help a child effectively regulate this input, support like sensory breaks, creating a sensory-friendly environment and incorporating tools to help process sensory input can be incorporated into ABA therapy.
- Establishment of a Strong Rapport. It’s important that the ABA sessions focus on building a strong rapport between the provider and the child. The practitioner can show trustworthiness and transparency by being clear to both the child and parents about the therapy process, goals, and expectations.
- Teaching of Emotional Regulation. The child can gain a sense of empowerment through being taught to use emotional regulation techniques. These are certain strategies that the child can use to manage their emotional responses to certain stressors or triggers.
- Making Choices and Having Control. Children, including those who have experienced trauma, can show certain behaviors as a result of feeling as though they do not have control over things in their environment. ABA can focus on allowing the child to have choices in therapy activities when possible. Depending on the child’s age and developmental level, they can also be included in the process of developing goals for ABA.
- Using Trauma-Sensitive Language: Others should use trauma-informed language and communication strategies. This includes being mindful of what words are being used and ways they can potentially trigger an individual with a history of trauma.
- Providing Positive Reinforcement: Trauma-informed care in ABA should focus on a child’s strengths. Providing positive reinforcement that can help the child build self-esteem and resilience.
How to Seek Trauma-Informed Services
The providers at TherapyWorks use a trauma informed care approach to therapy when indicated. TherapyWorks offers ABA, speech therapy, occupational and physical therapy both in home and in-clinic. If you would like to learn more, or discuss your child’s specific needs, please don’t hesitate to reach out to TherapyWorks!