ABA Therapy in Middle School

ABA Therapy Beyond elementary schoolAuthor: Christen Russell, MS, BCBA, ABLG Clinical Manager

Many people have the misperception that Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is only for young children with Autism or those with challenging, problem behavior.

ABA can be used across the lifespan with many different populations of people. ABA programs can apply to birth through adulthood.

As children age, their needs become more complex. Teaching a 3 year-old how to communicate his wants and needs and how to use a spoon is very different from teaching a 13 year-old about personal boundaries and reading the non-verbal context of communication.

How do we apply ABA programming to middle school children? After a comprehensive needs assessment, an ABA program for middle school aged children can incorporate the following, more advanced categories:

  • Language

√ How to talk to peers vs. adults vs. people you do not know
√ Understanding and properly using idioms, slang (as peers do)
√ What we say
√ How we say it
√ Reading and expressing appropriate body language

  • Internet Safety

√ Internet best practices (plan for safety)
√ Identifying accurate, credible sources of information about relationships, sexual health, etc.
√ How technology and social media impacts relationships
√ Legal aspects of social media

  • Personal Safety

Differentiate between emotional abuse, physical abuse, bullying, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexual assault, dating violence
How to promote safe environments at home, school, and in the community

  • Puberty and Adolescent Development

√ Understanding physical, social, cognitive, and emotional changes of adolescence
√ How friends, family, media influence self-concept and body image
√ Identity
√ Distinguish the differences in gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation
√ External influences that impact beliefs/attitudes about gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity

  • Healthy Relationships

√ Characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships
√ Evaluating the health of a relationship
√ Impacts of power differences (age, status, position)
√ Similarities and differences between friendship and romantic relationships
√ Appropriate expression of affection within varied relationships
√ Identifying sources of trusted support (parents, teachers, other adults, etc.)

  • Social Skills

√ Decision-making skills
√ Respectful communication
√ Promoting dignity and respect for all people in the community
√ Respecting and asserting personal boundaries
√ Negotiation skills
√ Communication of difficult/sensitive topics

  • Independent, Functional Skills

√ Hygiene routine
√ Preparing meals
√ Chores

We hope this post helps you brainstorm some out-of-the-box ways to design ABA programs for older learners! Keep your eyes peeled for Part 2, where we talk more about how to talk to your middle schooler about his/her program, so that you can establish more buy-in and excitement about learning!

Tell us in the comments below: How have you used ABA to design unique programs for middle school aged kids?

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  1. Lisa Hong says

    i want to find a transition program that is good for my daughter. High needs, nonverbal, is19 and at a school called dakota ridge that does not seem to fit her. I am willing to relocate or send her to a school til she is 21. I live in mn in the metro area.

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