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What is ABA?

What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is the science devoted to the understanding and improvement of human behavior.  “Applied” is the practice of improving behaviors that will enhance a person’s life. “Behavior” is anything a person says or does that can be seen or heard. A behavioral approach uses a behavioral definition to specify the behavior in need of improvement and documents changes in the behavior. “Analytic” demonstrates a functional relationship between the strategies and procedures imposed on the environment and improvement in the behavior.

What Does this Mean for My Child?

ABA is all about how to set up the environment to enable children to learn. It may seem odd to use the word “behavior” when talking about learning to talk, play, and live as a typically developing child, but to a behaviorist all these can be taught. All children have the potential to learn, but it takes a very structured environment, one where conditions are optimized for acquiring the same skills that typical children learn “naturally.” The whole point of ABA is to teach the prerequisites to make it possible for a child to learn naturally.

The behavior-consequence relation is the most important and widely applied principle of behavior analysis. When a behavior is reinforced, it will reoccur! These are the basics of behavioral learning theory. ABA uses these principles to set up an environment in which children learn as much as they can as quickly as possible, with a constant emphasis on the use of positive reinforcement.

Applied behavior analysis provides an objective basis for understanding and improving human behavior, and continually tests and evaluates the methods used for behavior change.

What should I expect in an ABA Therapy Program?

A behavioral program is a comprehensive intervention carried out, as much as possible, in every setting and every available moment. The program should include one-to-one discrete trial training (DTT), small group participation, family training and participation in program development, and support in the community for generalization of skills.

Discrete trial training is a one-to-one instructional approach used to teach skills in a planned, controlled, and systematic manner. Within DTT, the use of antecedents and consequences is carefully planned and implemented. Positive praise and/or tangible rewards are used to reinforce desired skills or behaviors. Data collection is an important part of DTT and supports decision making by providing therapist with information about beginning skill level, progress and challenges, skill acquisition and maintenance, and generalization of learned skills or behaviors. The skills that are taught so efficiently in discrete trial drills must be practiced and generalized in natural settings.