Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) | autism speaks (2023)

What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a therapy based on the science of learning and behavior.

Behavior analysis helps us to understand:

  • How the behavior works
  • How behavior is influenced by the environment
  • How learning takes place

ABA therapy applies our understanding of how behavior works in real-world situations. The aim is to reinforce helpful behaviors and reduce harmful or learning-impairing behaviors.

ABA therapy programs can help:

  • Increase language and communication skills
  • Improve attention, focus, social skills, memory and academics
  • Reduce problematic behaviors

Methods of behavior analysis have been used and studied for decades. You've helped many types of students gain a variety of skills - from living a healthier lifestyle to learning a new language. Therapists have used ABA to help children with autism and related developmental disabilities since the 1960s.

How does ABA therapy work?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) | autism speaks (1)

Applied behavior analysis encompasses many techniques to understand and change behavior. ABA is a flexible treatment:

  • Can be customized to suit the needs of each individual
  • Delivered in many different places - at home, at school and in the community
  • Imparts skills that are useful in everyday life
  • May include private lessons or group lessons

positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is one of the main strategies used in ABA.

When a behavior is followed by something valuable (a reward), a person is more likely to repeat that behavior. Over time, this encourages positive behavioral changes.

(Video) Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Master's Program

First, the therapist identifies a target behavior. Each time the person successfully performs the behavior or skill, they receive a reward. The reward matters to the individual—examples include praise, a toy or book, watching a video, access to the playground or other location, and more.

Positive rewards encourage the person to continue using the skill. Over time, this leads to a significant change in behavior.

history, behavior, consequence

Understandingbackground(what happens before a behavior occurs) andFollow(what happens after the behavior) is another important part of any ABA program.

The next three steps – the “ABCs— Help us teach and understand behavior:

  1. Likeprecursor: is what happens right before the target behavior. It can be verbal, such as B. an order or a request. It can also be physical, like a toy or object, or a light, sound, or something else in the environment. An antecedent can come from the environment, from another person, or from within (e.g., a thought or a feeling).
  2. A resultBehave: is the person's response or lack of response to the antecedent. It can be an action, a verbal response, or something else.
  3. AConsequence: comes right after the behavior. May include positive reinforcement of desired behavior or no response to incorrect/inappropriate responses.

Look atABCshelps us to understand:

  1. Why a behavior might occur
  2. How different consequences can affect the likelihood that the behavior will occur again


  • Prehistory:The teacher says at the end of the day, "It's time to clean your toys."
  • Behave:The student yells "No!"
  • Consequence:The teacher removes the toys and says, "Okay, the toys are ready."

How might ABA help the student learn more appropriate behavior in this situation?

  • Prehistory:The teacher says "time to clean up" at the end of the day.
  • Behave:The student is reminded to ask, "Can I have 5 minutes?"
  • Consequence:The teacher says, "Of course you can have 5 more minutes!"

With continued practice, the student will be able to replace the inappropriate behavior with a more helpful one. This is an easier way for the student to meet the child's needs!

What does an ABA program involve?

Good ABA programs for autism are not one-size-fits-all. ABA should not be viewed as a set of exercises out of a can. Instead, each program is written to meet the needs of each student.

The goal of any ABA program is to help each person work on skills that will help them become more independent and successful, both in the short term and in the future.

(Video) Introduction to Applied Behavior Analysis

Continuous planning and evaluation

A qualified and trained Behavior Analyst (BCBA) directly designs and oversees the program. They tailor the ABA program to each student's ability, needs, interests, preferences, and family situation.

The BCBA begins with a detailed assessment of each person's skills and preferences. You will use these to write down specific treatment goals. Family goals and preferences can also be included.

Treatment goals are written based on the age and skill level of the person with ASD. Goals can cover many different competency areas, such as:

  • communication and language
  • Social skills
  • Self-care (like showering and going to the toilet)
  • play and leisure
  • motor skills
  • Academic learning and skills

The lesson plan breaks each of these skills down into small, concrete steps. The therapist teaches each step one at a time, from simple (e.g. imitating unique sounds) to more complex (e.g. having a conversation).

The BCBA and therapists measure progress by collecting data at each therapy session. The data helps them continuously monitor the person's progress towards the goals.

The behavior analyst meets regularly with family members and program staff to review progress information. You can then plan ahead and adjust lesson plans and goals as needed.

ABA Techniques and Philosophy

The instructor uses a variety of ABA techniques. Some are led by a teacher and others are led by the person with autism.

Parents, family members and caregivers receive training to support skill learning and practice throughout the day.

The person with autism will have many opportunities to learn and practice skills each day. This can happen in both planned and natural situations. For example, someone learning to greet others by saying "hello" may have opportunities to practice this skill in the classroom with the teacher (planned) and during breaks (naturally occurring).

The student receives an abundance of positive reinforcement for demonstrating useful skills and socially appropriate behaviors. The focus is on positive social interactions and fun learning.

(Video) The Problem with Applied Behavior Analysis | Chloe Everett | TEDxUNCAsheville

The student does not receive reinforcement for behaviors that are harmful or impede learning.

ABA is effective for people of all ages. Can be used from childhood to adulthood!

Who Provides ABA Services?

Ein Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) offers ABA therapy services. To become a BCBA, the following is required:

  • Earn a master's or doctorate in psychology or behavior analysis
  • Pass a national certification exam
  • Pursue a state license to practice (in some states)

Therapists or Registered Behavior Coaches (RBTs) are also involved in ABA therapy programs. These therapists are trained and supervised by the BCBA. They work directly with children and adults with autism to practice skills and work toward individual goals written by the BCBA. They may be referred to by a few different names: behavioral therapists, lineage therapists, behavioral technicians, etc.

For more information, seeWebsite des Behavior Analyst Certification Council.

What is the evidence that ABA works?

The ABA is deemed to be aevidence-based best practice treatmentvom US Surgeon General und der American Psychological Association.

"Evidence-based" means that ABA has passed scientific tests of its usefulness, quality and effectiveness. ABA therapy includes many different techniques. All of these techniques focus on antecedents (what happens before a behavior occurs) and consequences (what happens after the behavior).

This is proven by more than 20 studiesintensiveelong termTherapy based on ABA principles improves outcomes for many, but not all, children with autism. "Intensive" and "long-term" refer to programs that provide 25 to 40 hours of therapy per week for 1 to 3 years. These studies show gains in intellectual functioning, language development, daily living skills, and social functioning.Adult studies according to ABA principles, although fewer in number, show similar benefits.

Is the ABA insured?

Sometimes. Many types of private health insurance are required to cover ABA services. This depends on what type of insurance you have and what state you live in.

All Medicaid plans must cover treatments that are in placemedically necessaryfor children under the age of 21. If a doctor prescribes ABA and says it is medically necessary for your child, Medicaid must cover the cost.

(Video) Dr. Deborah Fein Explains Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for Children With Autism

Visit our insurance resources for more informationInsurance and Coverage for Autism Services.

You can alsoContact the Autism Response Teamif you are having trouble getting insurance or need additional help.

Where can I find ABA services?

Follow the steps below to get started:

  1. Talk to your pediatrician or other doctor about ABA. You can discuss whether ABA is right for your child. You can issue a prescription to ABA if required by your insurance company.
  2. Make sure yoursHealth insurance covers the costs of ABA therapy, and what is its use.
  3. look for oursResource directory for ABA providers in your area. Or ask your child's doctor and teachers for recommendations.
  4. Call the ABA provider and request an admissions assessment. Have some questions ready (see below!)

What questions should I ask?

It is important to find an ABA provider and therapist that is a good fit for your family. The first step is for the therapist to establish a good relationship with your child. If your child trusts their therapists and enjoys spending time with them, therapy will be more successful - and fun!

The following questions can help you assess whether a provider is right for your family. Also, remember to trust your instincts!

  1. How many BCBAs have you hired?
  2. are theylicensed with the BACBand from the state?
  3. How many behavior therapists do you have?
  4. How many therapists will work with my child?
  5. What training do your therapists have? How often?
  6. How much direct supervision do therapists receive weekly from BCBAs?
  7. How do you deal with security concerns?
  8. What does a typical ABA session look like?
  9. Do you offer home or clinical therapy?
  10. How do you set goals for my child? Do you take parental input into account?
  11. How often do you reevaluate goals?
  12. How is progress evaluated?
  13. How many hours per week can you offer?
  14. Do you have a waiting list?
  15. What type of insurance do you accept?

For more information

ATN/AIR-P Parents' Guide to Applied Behavior Analysis

ATN/AIR-P An introduction to behavioral therapy treatments

Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB)

International Association for Behavior Analysis (ABAI)


1. What is autism and how does ABA therapy work?
(Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers)
2. What is ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) Therapy?
(LEARN Behavioral)
3. Daily Applied Behaviour Analysis Therapy (ABA)
(Surrey Place)
4. ABA therapy (Applied Behaviour Analysis)
(Autism Awareness Australia)
5. Autism ACTUALLY Speaking: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
(Nathan Selove)
6. ABA Therapy is abuse | an autistic's thoughts on ABA | #StopTheShock
(paige layle)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Laurine Ryan

Last Updated: 02/13/2023

Views: 6057

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (57 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Laurine Ryan

Birthday: 1994-12-23

Address: Suite 751 871 Lissette Throughway, West Kittie, NH 41603

Phone: +2366831109631

Job: Sales Producer

Hobby: Creative writing, Motor sports, Do it yourself, Skateboarding, Coffee roasting, Calligraphy, Stand-up comedy

Introduction: My name is Laurine Ryan, I am a adorable, fair, graceful, spotless, gorgeous, homely, cooperative person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.