I Love ABA!

Welcome to my blog all about Applied Behavior Analysis!

This blog is about my experiences, thoughts, and opinions on ABA. My career as an ABA provider is definitely a passion and a joy, and I love what I do.

This is a personal blog: The views and opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of the people, institutions, or organizations that I may be affiliated with.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Keeping the F-U-N in A-B-A

How FUN are your ABA sessions with your clients?

Do you make your clients smile or laugh? Are they excited or happy when you arrive at their house? Do they start excitedly talking to you or pulling your arm to come play with them as soon as you walk in?
Do you find yourself getting bored in your ABA sessions? Here’s a secret: If you are bored, your client was bored about 30 minutes ago.

It’s time to inject some FUN into therapy!

ABA therapists often have lots of precise and technical knowledge about behavior, learning, motivation, and systems of reinforcement. We can manage program binders, train parents and teachers, and collect and analyze data. The problem is, sometimes in this field people focus so much on running protocols that they forget that learning should be enjoyable. Particularly if you have a large caseload and spend your days driving from client to client, it can become monotonous and mundane.

You and your client both should enjoy working together. Neither of you should regularly feel bored or frustrated, if that’s happening then something needs to change. Think about it like this: if you had an ABA Therapist who came to see you regularly, what type of person would you want to show up? How would you want them to talk to you? What reinforcers would you want them to use?
Compare what you would want from a therapist with the type of therapist you are. Do you stack up? Would YOU want to be your client??

Consider this an invitation to start having more fun in your therapy sessions. It makes the clients happy, it makes the parents happy, it makes the siblings jealous :-) , and it prevents workplace burnout. I have fun with my clients…maybe not every day, but I enjoy going to see my kiddos.

If you have realized by now that your ABA sessions are about as exciting as completing trigonometry problems (sorry to the math fans) then here are some tips to being the FUN ABA therapist who has happy children trailing behind him/her like the Pied Piper.

Establish rapport-Pairing---> Understand what it is, and that it never really ends. Does your arrival signify fun things or the end of fun things? Do you walk in and say “Let’s get to work” or “Hey Danny! I’m so happy to see you today”? Your presence should be so tied to reinforcement and good things that you become a reinforcer to the client.
Schedule sessions during optimal learning times – For the itty bitty ones, this may mean you don’t do a session right before their nap time. For the school age kids, this means they don’t get off the bus, and BAM, there you are with a clipboard. It’s important to know your client, and know when they are in that optimal learning zone and schedule sessions with that in mind.
Tailor teaching strategies and modify materials based on the learner – I have one client who loves dinosaurs, so he has a dinosaur token board. I have another client who hates to read so we do his Sight Words program using magazines. I have a super girly client who loves My Little Pony so all her social stories are about ponies. Do your session materials and the strategies you use take into consideration your clients personality, interests, likes, and strengths?
Don’t fight against M.O., work with it – If your clients Dad just got home from work and your client keeps running out of the room to go see him, how about if Dad joins the session? Or if the client keeps staring out the window, how about if we work outside today? Why fight against your client’s motivation when that just makes your job harder?
Vary and rotate reinforcers often – Would you want to work for the same thing everyday? Does that sound fun to you? I see it all the time: the therapists have a Reinforcer Box with the same 4-5 toys and stuffed animals in it and it never changes. It’s no surprise when the client would rather engage in problem behaviors than sit and work---> It’s more fun to irritate you than it is to work for that same white teddy bear over and over. Mix it up! You should regularly surprise your client with new reinforcer choices  (like watching a cool video).
Embed client choice in sessions – How much choice does your client have in the session? For my clients who understand choice making we give them TONS of choice: Where should we sit--Should Mom come in the room-- Which program are we doing first--Which reinforcer do you want to work for--Should we take a break now or wait 10 minutes--Should we play Monopoly or Guess Who, etc.  Clients who are constantly making choices feel in control of the session and invested in the session, which is exactly how you want them to feel.


  1. Hey ! Just wanted to I say I love your blog. I have just completed my RBT exam here in Australia and have just started working in the field and your blog has helped me
    So much!


    1. Hi Natalie,

      Well congrats on obtaining your RBT, and thanks for visiting :-)