What is ABA?

ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis) is an approach to human behaviour which endeavours to understand how learning processes are developed, using a highly scientific approach within the discipline of psychology.

Since the beginnings of the 20th century, hundreds of authors have studied the variables which affect learning. As a result of these investigations we are now able to evaluate the level of knowledge a person has in any given ability, develop a learning program for this ability and stimulate the learning process.

Ever since Dr.Lovaas developed for the first time a treatment model for children with ASD based on ABA in the 1970s, this approach has progressively gained popularity within the field of education for children with special needs.

Currently tens of thousands of education professionals throughout the world use ABA in their treatment of children with learning difficulties, and more than 10,000 possess certification from the Behaviour Analyst Certification Board.

ABA is the treatment method for children with special needs with the highest level of scientific research and evidence to back up its suitability, and is the basis for the majority of treatments in countries such as the United States and Canada.

A intervention program based on ABA consists of a great number of activities. Part of those activities can be adapted to be run on a computing platform. This, coupled with the recent success of tablets such as the iPad with children with special needs has led to the development of a significant number of apps based on ABA.

AbaPlanet takes this process one step further, by offering a powerful learning platform based on ABA, which includes for the first time the three key elements of an ABA program: a system for logging and evaluating the learning process, and a way of teaching supported by an advanced expert system along with a set of play activities to stimulate the learning process.

 

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How has ABA been adapted for AbaPlanet?

Basic exercises

Within any intervention based on ABA there are a great number of exercises to be carried out. Some can be adapted to tablets, and among these the two most important ones are the exercises of matching and receptive language.



Expert System

With the AbaPlanet expert system we have aimed at simulating a personalized work session. It is not enough to simply define a series of working parameters and create a set number of exercises. To be effective, the system must be capable of analysing how the child responds, and react accordingly, repeating exercises as necessary, and adapting the difficulty of the exercises as the session progresses.



Distraction Exercises

The expert system is responsible for introducing distraction exercises as part of each session, simulating the process carried out by a therapist or tutor. In this way, during the receptive language learning sessions, the system progressively adds matching exercises, so that your child concentrates for a moment on other images and later returns to deal with exercises where the image of the concept to be learnt appears. The complexity of these distraction exercises, of which there are 50 variants, increases as the session progresses.



Managing Incorrect Responses

When the child makes a mistake, AbaPlanet will provide immediate feedback. The default response by the app consists of the screen going dark for two seconds. This is considered to be a non-stimulating response, and has the opposite effect to the sounds and highly visual graphic responses that are provided with correct answers.

AbaPlanet offers the possibility to replace this mechanism with a white screen, a sound or simply no response at all, leaving the response up to the adult.



Visual Aid

Following an incorrect response, the child should repeat the exercise twice, first with a visual clue, then a second time with no aid of any kind. For each iteration of the process, the position of the images will be changed, in order to avoid the response being associated with a particular position on the screen.

The visual aid may consist in the correct image flashing and changing size, or in professional sessions, with the elimination of one of the distraction images.



Reinforcers

When to give a reinforcer, which reinforcer to give and for how much time are key aspects to determine when preparing a work session. Proper motivation is essential, in order to gain the full benefits from a work session.

AbaPlanet allows you to configure of a varied list of reinforcers independently for each child, including pictures of real objects or activities. The option of loading the child´s favourite videos, or watching them on YouTube guarantees that the list of reinforcers is never exhausted.



Token Economy for Reinforcers

One commonly used technique in ABA is the use of a token-based reinforcement system. AbaPlanet implements this by allowing the option of choosing the number of tokens to be accumulated by the child before a reinforcer is offered. The token counter can either be displayed on the activity screen or in a separate window. When a separate window is used, the child can pick up the token after each successful exercise and sees what reinforcer is available at the end of the session.



Professional Sessions

With the professional session editor, we have aimed to provide maximum flexibility to tutors. The editor allows to create sessions on the fly and allows to configure key aspects such as how the exercises should be carried out, and the type of clues that should be provided if an incorrect answer is given.



Logging System

A work session based upon ABA should be logged and later analysed. AbaPlanet creates a log of each work session and for each time interval within the session.

It is essential that mistakes are detected. For that reason, AbaPlanet creates a complete log for each incorrect response. This allows to analyze if a child has difficulties with one particular image or concept. With the concept editor, the professional can then prevent that concept from appearing again.



Learned Concepts

AbaPlanet determines whether a concept has been learned as a function of a number of parameters that can be configured in professional sessions. For example, the image of a concept which has already been learned is considered to be a more difficult distraction than an image of a concept that is not yet known by the child. The adult user also has the ability to manually indicate which concepts are known by the child.

iSEQUENCES

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This is another app from the LOVAAS foundation and provides exercises for children based on 100 sequences of personal habits, play activity, daily situations and emotions.

AbaPlanet

AbaPlanet is a free app that includes everything you need to get started.

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