What is ABA?

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Applied

Principles applied to socially significant behavior.

Behavior

Based on scientific principles of behavior.

Analysis

Progress is observable, measurable and interventions are modified according to data analysis.

Hover over the boxes to reveal more information.

Applied

Principles applied to socially significant behavior.

Behavior

Based on scientific principles of behavior.

Analysis

Progress is observable, measurable and interventions are modified according to data analysis.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) can be described as a therapeutic intervention, and teaching methodology based on behaviorist theory which target socially significant behaviors through a system of reinforcement and promoting positive behaviors.


History of ABA

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy was first developed in the 1970s by Psychologist Ivar Lovaas and Robert Koegel at UCLA. The original therapeutic intervention developed was a technique or sub-set of ABA Therapy called Discrete Trial Training (DTT), which is still used today. In 1987, Dr. Lovaas became one of the first to begin using ABA treatment for Autism while working in the Psychology Department of UCLA. He believed that social and behavioral skills could be taught to all children on the autism spectrum through the ABA method.

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Core Characteristics of Effective ABA

Since it first started being used as a therapy for individuals on the Autism Spectrum in 1987, ABA has grown and matured into one of the most popular, imperially validated and arguably most effective behavioral treatments for individuals on the Autism Spectrum. Although the practice has grown, ABA continues to follow the same seven characteristics that it did in its inception:

  1. Applied:
    ABA focuses on the social significance of the behavior studied. For example, a non-applied researcher may study eating behavior because this research helps to clarify metabolic processes, whereas the applied researcher may study eating behavior in individuals who eat too little or too much, trying to change such behavior so that it is more acceptable to the persons involved.
  2. Behavior:
    ABA is pragmatic; it asks how it is possible to get an individual to do something effectively. To answer this question, the behavior itself must be objectively measured. These behaviors are defined and then analyzed through observable and measurable methods. Behavior is defined as anything that is observable.
  3. Analytic:
    Behavior analysis is successful when the data is collected and then tracked over time. Events are able to be modified, based on the data collected and then intervention outcomes are able to be recorded and then modified as indicated by behavioral change.
  4. Technological:
    The description of analytic research must be clear and detailed, so that any competent intervention person can repeat it accurately.
  5. Conceptually Systematic:
    Behavior analysis should not simply produce a list of effective interventions. Methods should be grounded in behavioral principles. This is aided by the use of theoretically meaningful terms, such as “secondary reinforcement” or “errorless discrimination” where appropriate.
  6. Effective:
    Effectiveness of ABA methodologies, grounded in behavior theory and empirically grounded treatment intervention will be reviewed in an ongoing manner throughout treatment. If an intervention does not produce a large enough effect for practical use, then the analysis should be modified.
  7. General:
    Behavior analysts should aim for interventions that are generally applicable, functional and realistic; the methods should work in different environments, apply to more than one specific behavior, and have long-lasting effects.

Source: Baer DM, Wolf MM, Risley TR. Some current dimensions of applied behavior analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. 1968;1(1):91-97. doi:10.1901/jaba.1968.1-91.