Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a well-developed, research-based, scientific discipline among the helping professions that focuses on the analysis, design, implementation, and evaluation of social and other environmental modifications to produce meaningful changes in human behavior. ABA includes the use of direct observation, measurement, and functional analysis of the relations between environment and behavior. The practice of ABA is rooted in data, which serves as a fidelity check for the effectiveness of recommended strategies and procedures. This ensures that the client’s ABA program is dynamic, never-stagnant, objective and, most importantly, effective. It utilizes changes in environmental events, including antecedent stimuli (what happens before a behavior) and consequences (what happens after a behavior); to create programming that produces practical and significant changes in behavior. These relevant environmental events are usually identified through a variety of specialized assessment methods.
ABA is based on the fact that a client’s behavior is determined by past and current environmental events, or contingencies, in conjunction with other genetic and/or environmental variables. ABA focuses on treating the problems of the disorder by determining functions and maintaining variables in order to support the learning or appropriate and functional behaviors instead of maladaptive, or inappropriate,, ones. ABA is not only an evidence-based practice for people diagnosed with Autism, it is also proven to be effective for other diagnoses such as ADHD and Depression. It may surprise you to know that ABA may also be beneficial for neuro-typical, or “typically-developing”, individuals as well. Behavior is all around us—which means ABA can be applied to almost anything or anyone who demonstrates observable and measurable behavior.
How does it work?
Initial consultation with a therapist trained in ABA. This consultation is called a functional behavior assessment (FBA). The therapist will ask about your child’s strengths and abilities & things that challenge them.
ABA also relies on parents and caregivers to help reinforce desired behaviors outside of therapy.
Your child’s therapist will teach you and your child’s teachers about strategies that will help to reinforce the work they do in therapy.
You’ll also learn how to safely avoid types of reinforcement that are less effective, such as giving in to tantrums.
Developing a plan
Your child’s therapist will use their observations from the initial consultation to create a formal plan for therapy. This plan should align with your child’s unique needs and include concrete treatment goals.
ABA therapists try to uncover causes of certain behaviors to help your child change or improve them. Over the course of therapy, your child’s therapist may adapt their approach based on how your child responds to certain interventions.
As long as your child continues treatment, their therapist will continue to monitor their progress and analyze which strategies are working and where your child may benefit from different treatment tactics.
ABA often results in children:
- showing more interest in people around them
- communicating with other people more effectively
- having more focus at school
- reducing or stopping self-harming behaviors
- having fewer tantrums or other outbursts
- learning to ask for things they want (a certain toy or food, for example), clearly and specifically