What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)?

Behavior analysis focuses on the principles that explain how learning takes place. Positive reinforcement is one such principle. When a behavior is followed by some sort of reward, the behavior is more likely to be repeated. Through decades of research, the field of behavior analysis has developed many techniques for increasing useful behaviors and reducing those that may cause harm or interfere with learning.

ABA is the use of these techniques and principles to bring about meaningful and positive change in behavior.

How does ABA work?

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy is widely recognized as the most effective, evidence-based treatment for autism and is endorsed by the U.S. Surgeon General and American Academy of Pediatrics. ABA therapy fosters basic skills such as looking, listening, requesting and imitating, as well as complex skills such as reading, conversing and understanding another person’s perspective.  ABA also helps reduce behaviors that make it difficult for children to learn.

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What Does ABA Intervention Involve?

Effective ABA intervention for autism is not a "one size fits all" approach and should never be viewed as a "canned" set of programs or drills. On the contrary, a skilled therapist customizes the intervention to each learner's skills, needs, interests, preferences and family situation. For these reasons, an ABA program for one learner will look different than a program for another learner.

Planning and Ongoing Assessment

  • A qualified and trained behavior analyst designs and directly oversees the intervention based on a detailed assessment of each learner's skills and preferences and may also include family goals.
  • Treatment goals and instruction are developmentally appropriate and target a broad range of skill areas such as communication, self-care, play, social-skills, motor development and academic skills.
  • Goals focus on skills that will increase independence
  • The intervention involves ongoing objective measurement of the learner’s progress.
  • The behavior analyst frequently reviews information on the learner’s progress and uses this to adjust procedures and goals as needed.
  • The behavior analyst meets regularly with family members and program staff to plan ahead, review progress and make adjustments as needed.

Still have questions about ABA Services?

Parent's Guide to ABA

More information about behavior analysis and ABA is available at the websites of the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts, the Association for Behavior Analysis International and the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.

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