Therapyworks Logo@2x 1.png

Trauma Informed Care in ABA 

Young Boy and Therapist Working Together


It can make a world of difference in how effective any therapy is for a child. It’s absolutely essential that a child’s unique history, strengths, and challenges are taken into consideration when goals and strategies for therapy are being developed.

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 Therapy 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.

Understanding Trauma

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.

Most of the research on trauma reinforces the fact that traumatic experiences have lasting adverse effects on an individual’s functioning and well-being. These effects could be mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
Trauma can be caused by sources such as physical or emotional abuse, neglect, violence, accidents, natural disasters, and more.

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.

It’s important to keep in mind that trauma is highly individualized. What is traumatic to one person may not be to another.
In ABA therapy, a history of trauma can significantly impact the necessary approach taken to provide effective therapy. Trauma can manifest as a child having increased anxiety, emotional dysregulation, and difficulties in developing trusting relationships with others.

Principles of Trauma-Informed Care in ABA

In a trauma informed approach to ABA, special consideration is taken for the possible ways that a child’s past experiences may influence their emotional and behavioral responses.


Trauma-informed care in ABA starts with a comprehensive assessment. This is a critical part of the therapy process, because the ABA provider will conduct a thorough assessment of the child’s history, including trauma.
This can help the provider identify potential triggers and sensitivities that could affect a child’s behavior.

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.

The ABA provider can also collaborate with other specialists working with the child, such as a Psychologist, teacher, and therapists. These individuals can provide the ABA provider with valuable insight into the child’s behaviors and create a more holistic approach to treatment. ABA staff can provide suggestions to others working with the child on how to create a safe, supportive environment.


A one-size-fits-all approach isn’t effective when it comes to ABA for any child. Trauma-informed care in ABA includes some specific, key components that tailor to the unique needs and sensitivities of the child.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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

When seeking trauma-informed ABA services for a child, parents can take a proactive approach to ensure their child receives the most effective, individualized care.
When talking to potential ABA providers, parents can inquire about the provider’s specific approach to working with children who have a history of trauma. This might include asking questions about their training and experience in trauma-informed care in ABA.
Parents should be actively involved in the evaluation and therapy pieces of ABA services, and should look for signs that a safe, empathetic environment has been created for the child. It’s important to also ensure that the principles of trauma-informed care are being implemented to cater to the child’s unique history and specific needs.

Additional Resources

Trauma informed care in ABA recognizes the impact of a child’s history of trauma during the planning and implementation of a holistic, compassionate, and effective therapy approach. By incorporating specific strategies, ABA can effectively improve a child’s behavior while also providing them with a sense of understanding and empathy that can foster resilience. ABA can be helpful for children with Autism, ADHD, Learning Disabilities, and others.

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!

Share This Post