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Using ABA for those individuals with Down's Syndrome

Using the methods of Applied Behaviour Analysis, more namely Verbal Behaviour, to best teach individuals with Down’s Syndrome.

The systematic approach to changing behaviour through the manipulation of antecedents (what happens right before a behaviour occurs) and consequences (what happens immediately after the behaviour occurs) is know as Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). Applied Behaviour Analysis has become widely known as the therapy of choice for individuals with Autism. While it is effective for Autism and tremendous success has been demonstrated, it is a myth that ABA is an intervention only for this population.

In truth, because ABA is the only empirically valid and documented scientific approach, it is appropriate for any needed change in behaviour and is successful with many diagnosis, those of which include Down's Syndrome.

Down’s Syndrome is caused by an extra chromosome (chromosome 21) and it is this additional genetic material that causes the physical manifestations of the condition. Individuals with Down’s Syndrome have specific speech and language impairments including significantly delayed speech and language skills. These delays in language may cause social isolation and lead to inappropriate behaviour due to the inability to express one’s wants, needs, and opinions. Imagine the frustration at wishing to interact with the people around you but lacking either the ability to produce audible speech or lacking the ability to know what to say in certain situations; this would be quite frustrating and difficult. The ability to communicate clearly can significantly reduce other problems that are commonly associated with the condition including depression, anxiety and a feeling of isolation and social exclusion. Providing these children with the methods required to enhance their speech allows them to gain control over social situations and emotions which leads to further involvement and inclusion.

Children with Down’s Syndrome are usually very good communicators and are keen to interact socially right from infancy. It is this willingness to interact that aids in the development of language and communication skills.

While ABA is effective with language, it can also target areas such as fine and gross motor, academics and life skills. Through the use of chaining, behaviours are broken down in to achievable steps that are taught until the individual is successful at completing the skill on their own.

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