Applied Behavioral Advancments, LLC provides behavior analytic and therapy services to individuals of all ages who have been diagnosed with developmental or intellectual disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, or psychiatric disorders. Established in 2007, ABA, LLC currently serves over 1200 clients throughout Kentucky. The ABA motto “Innovative Strategies for Unique Individuals” captures their mission of providing the highest quality services by seeing the potential in each client regardless of their current ability levels. As founder, Chris George, often says, “We were called to love the unlovable.”

ABA primarily provides behavior support services to individuals with disabilities who engage in challenging behaviors that interfere with their daily living activities, damage interpersonal relationships, and prevent them from being involved in the community around them. With hundreds of years of combined experience working with individuals who engage in challenging behaviors, areas of expertise for ABA clinicians include: verbal aggression, physical aggression, property destruction, self-injurious behavior, pica (eating non-edibles), elopement, inappropriate sexual behaviors, repetitive behaviors, early intervention for autism spectrum disorders, personality disorders, and symptoms associated with mental illness (schizophrenia, bi-polar, depression, personality disorders, etc).

ABA clinicians provide services to individuals, their families, and caregivers based on the principles of applied behavior analysis. Behavior analysis is based largely on the research of B.F Skinner, who demonstrated that behavior could be shaped by changing the environment around the individual without the use of punishment or aversive procedures. ABA clinicians use only positive, non-punitive strategies for intervention to help decrease challenging behaviors.

ABA believes that the key to any behavioral intervention must start with a quality assessment. ABA clinicians conduct a functional behavior assessment, not in an office setting like many other disciples, but in the individual’s home, school, day program, work location, or any other environment where the challenging behaviors occur. By observing the individual in the real life environment, interviewing caregivers, and interacting directly with the client, the clinician is able to identify the changes that occur immediately before and after the challenging behaviors occur. Once the environmental variables are identified, the clinician develops strategies to modify the environment to prevent the behaviors from occurring in the future. Modifications may include: adjusting temperature or lighting, reducing the amount of people in the environment (avoiding crowds), establishing a schedule of daily activities, providing more choices and options for the individual, providing greater access to preferred items or activities, or changing the way caregivers ask the individual to do something. These strategies are written into a behavior support plan and then the clinician works with the family or caregivers to teach them how to consistently implement the strategies. This usually involves at least weekly visits from the clinician to the environment and helping to ‘coach’ the caregivers through the strategies. The goal of the clinician is ultimately to teach the caregivers enough strategies so that their service is no longer needed.

While environmental modifications are critical to prevent challenging behaviors, the key part to any intervention program is the identification of ‘replacement behaviors’ to be taught to the individual. As the label suggests, these identified behaviors are taught to help the individual get what they want in a socially appropriate way and therefore take the place of the challenging behaviors. The clinician will usually work directly with the individual to teach the new behavior, while modeling and training the caregivers how to prompt and reinforce the new behavior. Reinforcement of the new behavior may include providing praise, or access to preferred items or activities when the new behavior is exhibited. The process of teaching new behaviors to both the individual and the caregivers changes the overall environment without the use of punitive interventions and leads to a greater quality of life for everyone.

While the decrease in challenging behaviors is the most common reason for referrals to ABA, LLC for services, this is not the only reason. There has been a huge increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism due to skill deficits in communication, social interaction, and stereotyped or repetitive behaviors or interests without challenging behaviors. ABA has a specialized early intervention program to address these deficits. The early intervention program consists of up to 30 hours a week of direct work with the child. The treatment plan is overseen by a Licensed Board Certified Behavior Analyst and implemented by a behavioral technician who has specialized training in teaching new skills. Parent training on the strategies is also required as part of this program. At least monthly the team meets to review data, discuss progress, modify strategies, and set new goals for the next skills to be addressed. While this program requires significant commitment from all involved, the benefits to the child and family are equally significant.

Although behavior analytic services are the primary focus of ABA, LLC, they also provide a variety of other services in a more traditional clinical setting. These services include psychological services (counseling), occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech language pathology. By providing multi-disciplinary, wrap around services the individual and their family get the advantage of a collaborative team of clinicians working together under one roof. This allows for a ‘family feel’ in the clinical services they are receiving.

To help support all of the clinical services that ABA, LLC provides, they also have direct support professionals who work 1:1 with the individual in their home or community to assist with a variety of skills including daily living skills (household chores, hygiene, money management, etc), work skills, accessing the community, and building ‘non-paid’ relationships. ABA works with the family and individual to develop goals and objectives that will ultimately allow the individual to be more independent with an increased quality of life.

ABA, LLC is not a clinical agency just trying to turn a profit. It is a client focused agency that truly cares about and loves each of the individuals they serve. The administration and clinical staff refer to each other as the ‘ABA family’, and that what they do is not a job but a calling. Perhaps their mission can best be summed up by the quote on the back of Chris George’s business card and at the bottom of every email, “”I’m not trying to change people. All I want is to change the world in which they live” –B.F. Skinner

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ABA, LLC is a proud sponsor of RENT:  20th Anniversary Tour at the Norton Center on February 18.  For more information about this performance, click here.