Occupational Therapy vs ABA Therapy

November 4, 2022 | Uncategorized

If you are the parent of a child with autism, then you hopefully know of the many evidence-based therapies available to help. Two of the most common therapies involved in autism treatment are ABA therapy and occupational therapy. While these therapies have similar goals they also have many differences. Here we’ll explore the differences between these two types of therapies and help you decide which one is best for your child.

What is ABA Therapy?

ABA therapy, also known as Applied Behavior Analysis, is a type of therapy that is often used to treat autism spectrum disorder. ABA therapy focuses on teaching new skills and behaviors while also decreasing behaviors that might be harmful or impede the individual’s ability to learn and acquire new skills. ABA therapy is highly individualized, which means that the therapist works closely with the child and their family to create a treatment plan that meets their specific needs. It has been shown to be an effective treatment for autism and produces long-lasting results.




What is Occupational Therapy for Autism?

Occupational therapy, or OT, is a type of therapy that helps people with physical, mental, or developmental disabilities to participate in everyday activities. Occupational therapy can be used to treat a wide range of conditions, including autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and stroke. For children with autism, occupational therapists can help with a variety of skills such as fine motor, gross motor, self-care, and social skills. Similar to ABA therapy, pediatric occupational therapy is highly individualized and tailored to meet the specific needs of the child.

Differences Between ABA and Occupational Therapy

ABA and occupational therapy share some similarities, but there are also key differences between the two. A child with autism may benefit from both ABA and occupational therapy. This allows an opportunity for all therapists to collaborate closely and ensure optimal progress. Both therapies can be helpful for children with autism, but it’s important to understand the different approaches when making an informed decision.


There are many similarities between occupational therapy goals and the goals for ABA therapy. Both therapies aim to help the client develop skills that will improve their quality of life. However, there are also some important differences between the two approaches. Occupational therapy goals for autism typically focus on helping the client develop gross and fine motor skills, while goals for ABA therapy tend to be more focused on social and communication skills.


When it comes to occupational therapy techniques versus ABA therapy techniques, there are a few key differences to be aware of. ABA is a type of therapy that focuses on strategically changing behavior through modifications to the environment, such as positive reinforcement. Occupational therapy, on the other hand, focuses on helping people develop the skills they need to perform everyday activities. Some common ABA therapy techniques include Premack principle, token economy, and discrete trial training all of which focus on increasing desired behaviors through breaking down tasks and reinforcing new skills. Occupational therapy interventions may include motor skill strengthening exercises and training on how to use different aids to make everyday tasks easier.


While there are similar benefits when it comes to ABA and occupational therapy like motor skills and self-help skills, there are still specific benefits of each. ABA therapy benefits include increased communication skills, improved play skills, improved mealtime behaviors, school readiness, and reduction of behaviors that impede the individual from self-independence. Benefits of occupational therapy for autism include improved social skills like reading social cues, decreased repetitive behaviors, and improved fine motor skills like writing.

Oftentimes, ABA therapists and occupational therapists collaborate and work closely alongside each other to maximize progress for their patients. Although ABA therapy and occupational therapy share some similarities, they also have key differences in their goals, techniques, and benefits. If you are considering starting ABA therapy for your child with autism, contact Empower Behavioral Health today. We would be happy to help you decide if ABA is the right choice for your family and provide more information about our autism therapy services.