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What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)?

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

ABA therapy applies our understanding of how behavior works to real situations. The goal is to increase behaviors that are helpful and decrease behaviors that are harmful or affect learning.

ABA therapy programs can help:

  • Increase language and communication skills

  • Improve attention, focus, social skills, memory, and academics 

  • Decrease problem behaviors

 

The methods of behavior analysis have been used and studied for decades. Applied Behavior Analysis involves many techniques for understanding and changing behavior. ABA is a flexible treatment and is adapted to meet the needs of each unique person.

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

In ABA, a qualified and trained behavior analyst (BCBA) designs and directly oversees the program. They customize the ABA program to each learner's skills, needs, interests, preferences and family situation.

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

  • Communication and language

  • Social skills

  • Self-care (such as showering and toileting)

  • Play and leisure

  • Motor skills

  • Learning and academic skills


ABA therapy programs involve technicians, or registered line technicians (RBTs). These technicians are trained and supervised by the BCBA. They work directly with children and adults with autism to practice skills and work toward the individual goals written by the BCBA.

The BCBA and technicians measure progress by collecting data in each therapy session. Data helps them to monitor the person’s progress toward goals on an ongoing basis.

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

ABA is considered an evidence-based best practice treatment by the US Surgeon General and by the American Psychological Association. “Evidence based” means that ABA has passed scientific tests of its usefulness, quality, and effectiveness.

 

More than 20 studies have established that intensive and long-term therapy using ABA principles improves outcomes for many but not all children with autism.