If you are not currently working as an ABA Therapist or the parent of a child who receives ABA Therapy you might be wondering :
What is ABA?
ABA stands for Applied Behavior Analysis, and it is a behavioral therapy often used for individual with Autism, but it is much broader and larger than that.
ABA is an umbrella term that covers many styles of teaching, such as Verbal Behavior (VB), Natural Environment Teaching (NET), and Discrete Trial Training (DTT). ABA professionals mainly work in the areas of behavior reduction or skill acquisition.
There's 2 important things to know about ABA Therapy:
- The research of B.F. Skinner - ABA therapy is based in the research and life work of B.F. Skinner, the Father of Operant Conditioning. Operant Conditioning states that behaviors that contact reinforcement are strengthened, and behaviors that contact punishment are weakened. ABA is the process of manipulating the environment (what the individual finds reinforcing or punishing) in order to increase or decrease behaviors.
- The research of Ivar Lovaas - Dr Lovaas conducted a research study in 1987 that helped to show the world that children with Autism can learn, and can improve. Based on this study (and many replication studies that have been done since) we now know that with early intensive ABA treatment, children with Autism can learn to talk, give eye contact, interact socially with others, extinguish problem behaviors, attend school independently, and be functioning members of society. The key is that the ABA treatment must be early and intensive.
Individuals with Autism may have deficits in areas critical to learning, such as attention, motivation, or expressive language skills. ABA Therapy addresses many of the core deficits that can be present with a diagnosis of Autism using behavioral techniques such as reinforcement, consistent consequences, and extinction. Strengths are generalized and expanded upon, and deficits are replaced with skills in order to help the individual be more successful in their environment.
ABA has decades of research to support its efficacy, and people all over the world use intensive ABA therapy or ABA principles in order to teach people with Autism or other Developmental Disabilities.
Being a behavioral therapeutic method, ABA focuses on what is observable and measurable. Specific, concrete behavioral excesses are targeted for reduction, and holes in the individual's developmental profile are targeted for instruction. ABA therapy can take place in the home setting, school setting, community setting(s), or at a center/clinic. ABA therapy is usually provided by ABA therapists, and the therapists should be supervised by a Consultant (usually a Board Certified Behavior Analyst).
Particularly for children who struggle to function at their chronological age level and have severe or challenging problem behaviors, ABA is an extremely effective therapy method. ABA focuses on understanding behavior by its function, combined with examining the environment in order to develop a comprehensive strategy for behavior reduction.
Examples of ABA Therapy goals include:
Increase attending behaviors
Improve fine motor skills
Extinguish self-injurious behaviors (SIB's)
Reduce tantrumming behavior
Increase play behaviors with siblings
Generalize skills across environments
Successful homework completion
Increasing compliance to adult directives
Provide parent education in the area of behavior management
ABA therapists can work with individuals who have Autism, Mental Retardation, Attention Deficit Disorder, Downs Syndrome, and on and on. If the issue of concern is a behavior, then ABA can be used to help the individual. ABA therapists can work with individuals of all ages, such as working with adults in residential type settings or working with toddlers in a daycare setting.
Behavior Analysts (which is a person who has clinical expertise in behavior) can work in the business world, as a scientist or researcher, and in many other cool ways that have nothing to do with Autism.Many of us do work with individuals with Autism and enjoy it greatly, but the field of Behavior Analysis is broad and multifaceted.
If you would like more information about ABA, please see any of the links below:
**Quick Tip: Below are two amazing resources that serve as introductory guides to the field of ABA.
The Cooper book (often called the "White Book") is a more technical guide that I recommend for professionals.
Applied Behavior Analysis by Cooper, Heron, & Heward
The Catherine Maurice book is a very parent-friendly resource that I recommend to learn about ABA from the point of view of a mother.
Let Me Hear Your Voice by Catherine Maurice