Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) provides treatment focused on behavior change for children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Over the past 60 years, ABA has developed into the sole treatment that is funded by insurance for Autism Spectrum Disorders. As the field has progressed, practitioners have moved away from previously aversive strategies to better teach children what is functional and appropriate.
What is Applied Behavior Analysis?
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is based on the science of learning and behavior with the goal of improving an individual’s access to the world around them by teaching a variety of strategies. ABA is not only for the treatment of challenging behaviors; it can also increase positive behavior in both home and community environments. Typical strategies that may be implemented within a treatment plan for ABA include the following:
- Reinforcement – The process of providing motivating items such as praise and attention, activities, and tangible items once the behavior that is being targeted is displayed to encourage an increase in a desired behavior.
- Shaping – The process of teaching skills in sequence and providing reinforcement when the skill is displayed.
- Chaining – The process of teaching complicated routines by breaking them down into individual steps and teaching each one in sequence.
- Natural Environment Training (Incidental Teaching) – A teaching method that focuses on opportunities to engage in skills as they naturally occur within the day such as activities of daily living, requests, and transitioning from activity to activity. By providing natural opportunities for the behaviors to occur and reinforcing them within their natural settings they are much easier to be carried over to home, school, or the community.
- Discrete Trial Teaching – Focuses on teaching foundational skills with opportunities for repetition in an environment without distractions. Each “trial” contains instruction and reinforcement as the skill is developed and completed independently. Once the skill is mastered in this specialized setting, generalization of the skill can be implemented in the natural environment.
What skills are taught in Applied Behavior Analysis?
Skills that are taught in ABA are focused on providing a meaningful and impactful benefit to the individuals that we are treating and could include:
- Functional Communication
- Verbal Communication
- Augmentative and Alternative Communication Devices (AAC)
- Tacting (Labeling)
- Activities of Daily Living (as permissible by insurance)
- Mand Training (Requesting for items)
- Discriminating Training within the environment
- Replacement Skills for current forms of maladaptive behaviors that are being displayed
- Parent Training
ABA therapy programs can help:
- Increase language and communication skills
- Improve attention, focus, social skills, memory, and academics
- Decrease problem behaviors