Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a scientific approach to bringing about meaningful changes in behavior. It involves careful observation, measurement, and recording of a person’s actions and environment. Techniques used in ABA include arrangement of the learning environment, use of prompting and shaping techniques, and use of reinforcement for behavior change. ABA therapists not only teach appropriate communication, social, and behavioral skills, but they also work toward reducing or managing challenging behavior6. ABA techniques may include:
- Engaging in a systematic process to help parents and professionals understand the purpose or function of a specific behavior
- Identifying and teaching a “replacement” or alternative behavior, which is then positively reinforced, with the goal of emphasizing positive social interactions and enjoyable learning
- Structuring the individual’s day to provide opportunities to practice skills
- Objectively measuring changes in behavior to determine whether certain in both structured and unstructured situations techniques are leading to progress ABA therapy should be consistent across a child’s day and in a variety of settings.
While a precise number of hours per week of therapy should be based on the individual child’s needs, research indicates that consistency and repeated practice leads to larger gains.
Why use ABA?
Research has shown that early intervention services (preschool years are considered “early” when it comes to intervention) can greatly improve a child’s development. Today, early intervention ABA therapy is widely recognized as a safe and effective treatment for autism.
The National Professional Development Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders, in 2014, released a review finding 27 specific strategies scientifically based for use with individuals with autism. Of these, several fall under the category of ABA.
A number of studies have shown that when ABA is delivered by trained professionals, it can help learners with ASD make significant improvements in many areas such as social relationships, communication, play, self care, school and employment. Additionally, these studies have involved people ranging in age from children to adults.