A Guide to ABA Therapy

Effective ABA Strategies for Parents

What Are ABA Strategies for Common Child Behaviors?

We’ll keep mentioning this any time we get the chance: ABA therapy is completely individualized and tailored to the specific child who is receiving the services. This is why it’s so effective in teaching our children. Giving them exactly what they need for the specific skills and behaviors that need developing is the best way to help them progress. There are some general guidelines that go along with the ABA strategies we use however, and you can use these generalities in your home with your child. This will help keep your child’s expectations consistent, at the clinic and at home.

Proactive Strategies

Proactive strategies are things that you can do to reduce the likelihood challenging behavior will occur or things that you can do to help your child learn new skills. Here are a handful of examples and this, in no way, constitutes an exhaustive list.


Visual Schedule

Keeping your child in the loop and giving them the expectations that these things will be happening ahead of time will go a long way in reducing behaviors. For example, if you know your child has a hard time out in the community, consider using a calendar or some kind of visual reminder to let them know what to expect. This can be an expectation of what/who they will see, how long you will be in the environment, and even what to expect after you leave. Talk about the events that are coming up with your child. Discuss details about why you’re going and any other details that you think your child may have a hard time with.

For the daily tasks that your child may be averse to, draw up a daily schedule. At the start of each day, you can go over this schedule with your child. This lets your child in on the expectations of the day, instead of having it sprung on them in the moment. It would be good to include the things your child enjoys within this daily schedule too. This shows them that yes, they may have to do this task that they don’t enjoy, but they also have access to the things they do enjoy before and after that task is completed.


Use this as a countdown for how long before a transition.  Whether it is the transition between activities or of how much longer until they have to turn off their favorite show.

Create a Social Story

Social stories can work for some children, giving them another visual without having them in the actual situation. This can show them what they can expect and what is expected from them in any specific situation.  Include all steps of the process within the story, keeping them positive. For the example of going on an airplane, you could begin the story with your family planning the trip and where they’re going. Go through each step of the process, driving to the airport, checking bags, going through security, etc.

Enrich Your Child’s Environment

Enhance your child’s environment with their favorite activities/toys or activities/toys in which you want to expose them too.  You should arrange the environment so that they don’t have access to everything and they need to engage with you [appropriately] to gain access to their favorite items and activities.

Grandma’s Rule

This is also known as the Premack Principle. This is simply a “first/then” contingency.  First, you instruct your child to do the lesser preferred activity, THEN they get to do the more preferred activity.  These are contingencies that occur naturally in our daily lives regardless of age.  First do your homework, then you can watch TV; first eat your dinner, then you get dessert; first go to work, then you can go to social hour, etc.


Offer as many choices as possible throughout your child’s day.  Provide choices that will get you what you want/need.  We are going from point A to point B.  It doesn’t matter how we get there so why not give your child the choice?  For example: do you want to use the Elmo plate or the Cookie Monster plate for dinner?  Do you want to sit in the red chair or the blue chair?  Notice I didn’t give the choice of sitting or not-the instruction is to sit but the choice is which chair.  The choice is not something that won’t work for you-do you want to eat dinner or go to bed.  The point is to get them to eat dinner and not threaten to go to bed without eating.

ABA therapy

Use Start Directives

Tell your child what is expected instead of what is not expected or what they should do instead of what they shouldn’t.  For example, “feet on the floor” instead of “don’t kick or don’t jump on the couch”.  Oftentimes stop, don’t, and no are triggers for our kiddos and that correction doesn’t really offer much in terms of what they should do instead.  Plus, it is more impactful to save stop aversives for more dangerous or urgent situations, “STOP! Don’t run into the street!”


Verbally let your child know what is next or what to expect.  “I am going to turn the TV off in 1 more minute.  Ok, 5 more seconds, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1” then turn it off rather than just abruptly shutting it off. This can give your child time to prepare.  This strategy often works well with the visual times and/or schedules.

Task Analysis

A task analysis or TA is when a skill is broken down into a step-by-step process. Instead of teaching one skill as a whole, a TA takes this skill and breaks it down into individual, almost bite-sized steps. Each step provides your child with a teaching moment. The therapist will work with your child to master each one of these skills so that each step is learned and combined into one cohesive process. A lot of times, each correct step will be met with a tangible reinforcer, whether it be a small edible or access to a toy, etc. The use of these reinforcers, serves to provide your child with momentum and motivation to carry throughout each step of the program.

One example of this is teaching your child to brush their teeth. This is a skill that actually has a lot of different components. It may be more effective to take each step and teach them as individual skills, combining them all, once each step is mastered. The following is a general example of how these steps could be broken down:

  1. Pick up toothbrush
  2. Apply toothpaste to toothbrush
  3. Hold toothbrush in front of teeth
  4. Brush top right teeth 5 times
  5. Brush top left teeth 5 times
  6. Brush top middle teeth 5 times
  7. Brush lower right teeth 5 times
  8. Brush lower left teeth 5 times
  9. Brush lower middle teeth 5 times
  10. Spit toothpaste in sink
  11. Rinse off toothbrush
  12. Put toothbrush away

In an actual lesson breakdown, there would probably be more explanation involved, criteria for a correct response, as well as a correction procedure for incorrect responses. But as a general overview, this is how a therapist can tackle a complicated skill with your child, making each component teachable. It’s a great way to pinpoint exactly where your child is struggling, showing which step may be creating an issue. This allows the team to focus more on that individual impediment in the future as well.

Empowering Parents at Ally Pediatric Therapy

At Ally Pediatric Therapy, we want to empower our parents to take a role in their child’s development. We will answer any and all questions you may have, and also can offer parent training opportunities to discuss individual circumstances regarding your child. If you have any reservations on your child’s development, get in contact with our team. We are happy to be your ally in your child’s progression. It’s encouraged that families take part in the development of their child through ABA practices. Consistency with expectations and goals is huge for long-lasting developments. If you as parents are participating and using the same strategies your child’s therapists are using, then not only are we improving setting generalization, but also the generalization across those people your child interacts with the most. There are many different ways you can bring ABA into the way you teach your children.


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