Applied Behavior Analysis
ABA is Applied Behavior Analysis, the study of human and animal behavior. ABA focuses on improving socially significant behaviors. ABA has a large research base and its methods have been proven to improve positive behaviors for its clients. ABA has been recognized as the most effective treatment for autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disorders.
A for Applied
“Applied” means practice, rather than research or philosophy. When we take the research principles that have been proven to work and use those strategies to help our clients improve their lives, we are applying those principles and strategies in meaningful ways.
B for Behavior
Behavior in ABA stands for anything that a living organism, human or animal, does that can be observed by others. So often we think of behavior and associate negative behaviors with that term. When we say “behavior” in ABA, we can be discussing negative or difficult behaviors, like tantrums, yelling, swearing, stealing, but we can also be focusing on positive behaviors, like sharing, talking, waving good-bye, making a purchase. Each of these are things an outsider can observe happening. If we can see it, then we can take data on it.
It may seem odd to use the word “behavior” when talking about learning to talk, play, and live as a complex social animal, but to a behavior analyst all these can be taught, as long as there are intact brain functions to learn and practice the skills.
A for Analysis
Analysis means that we are a science, we use data to make our decisions, and we do this continually as we work with you. When we work with your child we will take data, review the data for trends (increases, decreases, stability, or instability), and make decisions that are based on the data we observe. Most BCBAs love data. We love looking at graphs and making data-based decisions that will help your child to learn more.
Put it all together and what you have is ABA. ABA is about teaching our clients to learn new skills, replace behaviors of concern with more socially appropriate behaviors, and focusing on improving and increasing behaviors that will be meaningful to the client and society.
Why does my child need ABA?
Most typically developing children learn without our intervention–the world around them provides the right conditions to learn language, play, and social skills. Children learn a lot from their natural environment. Children with autism may learn less easily from the natural environment. While they have the potential to learn, depending on the child and their specific individual needs, it might take a more structured environment or a blend of structure and natural environment, for learning to occur, an environment where conditions are optimized for acquiring the same skills that typical children learn “naturally.” ABA is all about how to set up the environment to enable our kids to learn.
ABA is endorsed by U.S. Surgeon General and CDC
ABA has been endorsed by a number of state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Surgeon General and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as an effective therapy for children and adults with autism spectrum disorder.
United States Surgeon General David Satcher, MD, PhD, has endorsed intensive behavioral intervention for individuals with autism. Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General states, “Thirty years of research demonstrated the efficacy of applied behavioral methods in reducing inappropriate behavior and in increasing communication, learning, and appropriate social behavior.”
The report is available on the Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General and also ordered by 1-877-9MHealth, or by writing to Mental Health, Pueblo, CO 81009.
Additional Organizations that Endorse ABA
The following organizations endorse ABA as a scientifically proven approach for treating children with autism and related disorders:
- American Academy of Neurology
- American Academy of Family Pediatrics
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- American Academy of Occupational Therapy Association
- American Psychological Association
- American Speech-Language Hearing Association
- Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
- Autism Society of America
- National Institute of Child Health & Human Development
- National Institute of Mental Health
If you would like to learn more about ABA, here are some helpful resources: