To understand what it means behavioral therapy we must first know the meaning of the term behavior.
Behavior is essentially an interaction with the environment, a reaction to the environment, and a combination of ways we react in certain situations.
Behaviors in the case of people with special needs are, however, a subject that must be defined much more clearly, these representing an accumulation of atypical reactions and manifestations, in accordance with the perception of the environment by the person with special needs.
What does behavioral therapy mean? It means the therapist's ability to understand atypical behaviors, as well as the generating basis of the behavior. Understanding the function that behavior performs (social, stereotyping, communication) being essential for a specific intervention in neurodevelopmental disorders (eg autism).
In essence, a behavior is fixed and repeated by any person (neurotypical), when it is rewarded for it (including a social reward like "bravo!", "Very good!").
All behavioral therapy programs are based on the same principles: adults (parents or therapists) establish and apply clear rules and expectations of behavior for the child. Rewards are used for appropriate behaviors and penalties for inappropriate ones, applied on the spot, immediately after the behaviors occur. It is somewhat similar to the well-known principles of classical (Pavlov) and operant (Skinner) conditioning learning. In addition, adults or therapists must structure and organize the child's living environment as much as possible by establishing life routines, thus giving him predictability and stability.
Thus, when discussing the behaviors of people with autism or people with special needs, we must divide the behaviors into two broad categories:
1. Excessive behaviors (those behaviors that we want to reduce): self or hetero aggression, obsessive compulsive behaviors, self-stimulation, etc.
2. Deficient behaviors (those behaviors that we want to develop and master): socialization, language, self-service, self-care, play, etc.
Behavioral intervention will include three types of learning such as conditioning, operant conditioning and observational (observational) learning.
Among the benefits of behavioral therapy, we list:
• Learning the notions of self-service, self-care and independence
• Improving academic or linguistic performance
• Increasing the number of cognitive and behavioral elements and notions
• Socialization, diminishing excessive behaviors
• Increased deficient behaviors,
• Improving gross or fine motor skills
• Recognition of the environment and surrounding objects