Applied behavior analysis (ABA)

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is often described as the “gold standard” for autism treatment. Applied behavior analysis is a system of autism treatment based on behaviorist theories which, simply put, state that desired behaviors can be taught through a system of rewards and consequences.

The Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) approach and its techniques can be used to help autistic children improve their social skills, self-care skills, communication skills, play skills and ability to manage their own behaviour. It can also help reduce difficult behaviour like inattention, aggression and screaming.

The key ideas behind Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) are that:

human behaviour is influenced by events or stimuli in the environment
behaviour that’s followed by positive consequences is more likely to happen again.
ABA uses these ideas to help autistic children learn new and appropriate behaviour. It does this by giving children positive consequences for appropriate behaviour and not for problematic behaviour.

For example, if a child points to a teddy they want, the child’s parents might follow this up with a positive consequence like giving the child the teddy. This makes it more likely that the child will repeat the behaviour in the future.

Programs based on Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) generally involve:

assessing a child’s current skills and difficulties
setting goals and objectives – for example, learning how to say ‘hello’
designing and implementing a program that teaches the ‘target’ skill
measuring the ‘target’ skill to see whether the program is working
evaluating the program itself and making changes as needed.
ABA can focus on a specific problem, like screaming in the supermarket, or it can work more broadly on a range of developmental areas at the same time, like communication, self-care and play skills.

Autistic children in ABA programs are taught new skills using a range of teaching techniques, which might include Discrete Trial Training and incidental teaching. Programs might also use everyday interactions as opportunities for children to learn.