ABA can be used for anything from improving behaviour to teaching curriculum subjects. The key tactic is to engage the child using individual rewards or “reinforcers”.
At Treetops, which uses a type of ABA known as verbal behaviour or VB, each child is “paired” with an assistant who carries a bag of “rewards” – toys or props the child enjoys using. Whenever they perform a task correctly, or behave as they are being taught to, they get a few minutes with their reward. In one of the older year groups, a teenage boy is treated to five minutes on the Nintendo DS, while another runs a wooden toy up and down his arm. In the nursery, a teaching assistant simply blows bubbles around the room as a reward for her pupil correctly saying his numbers.
“It works because it’s so individualised,” says Jennifer Hubbard, an ABA teacher and manager of the school’s VB programme. “Each child’s programme looks very different and we make it specific to what’s going on in their life.