What Is ABA?


Photo source: www.littleleaves.org


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??"

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the science of changing socially significant behavior. 
ABA has its origins in the scientific work of B.F. Skinner. In its early days, ABA research was about studying how individuals and animals respond under certain conditions (Operant Conditioning), and had nothing to do with Autism, therapy, or special needs. It was simply a science of understanding how behaviors are established, and how they can be changed.

It wasn't until a study by I. Lovaas (published in 1987) with a group of Autistic children and adolescents that what we now think of as  formal ABA Therapy began to take shape. 
At that time in history, Autism was considered to be a mysterious and baffling condition that was met with despair and sadness, and parents were advised to institutionalize their Autistic child and move on with their life. 
       
Replication studies since 1987 have repeated Lovass’ results over and over again. Also, advancements in technology and further scientific discoveries have fine-tuned ABA into a highly sophisticated tool for effective and long- lasting behavior change. 
As times changed, years passed, and with more of us ABA practitioners listening to the voices and concerns of actually Autistic people, ABA remains a science that is always improving, always changing, and always being refined (as it should be!) to make sure we are not seeking to "fix" our clients but to support them and help them overcome barriers. Today, a diagnosis of Autism should not be met with sadness or despair. It should be met with with a commitment to understand more about neurological differences, and to help provide support at whatever level would be most appropriate.

In the mid -1990’s, a book written by a parent of a child with Autism (“Let Me Hear Your Voice”, by Catherine Maurice) pushed this substantial body of scientific knowledge out into the world, and quickly this “new ABA therapy” began to be sought out by parents of special needs children all over the world. 
Obviously the book was just one family's account of their personal story, but the book was a catalyst for people to even start asking "Whats ABA???" outside of just practitioner and research communities.

     Explosion in public demand led to new funding sources, new populations to serve, and the profession of Behavior Analysis (the BACB) was born in order to properly train and equip individuals to be practitioners of the science of ABA.  Today, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) has become widely accepted as a highly effective treatment for behavior change. 


You have likely heard ABA & ABA Therapy used interchangeably, but from reading this post you now know that ABA is a scientific study of behavior. 



Now let's talk about ABA Therapy:

 ABA Therapy is an umbrella term that covers many styles of teaching/treatment, 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.

 ABA Therapy incorporates behavioral techniques such as reinforcement, prompting, consistent consequences, and extinction. Strengths are generalized and expanded upon, and deficits are remediated with functional skills in order to help the individual be more successful in their environment. Behavior reduction and skill acquisition are closely connected when it comes to ABA Therapy; typically being simultaneously targeted.

 ABA Therapy has decades of rigorous research to support its efficacy, and people all over the world use intensive ABA principles in order to teach new behaviors to children, adolescents, and adults.

Being a behavioral therapeutic method, ABA Therapy focuses on what is observable and measurable. Precise and frequent data collection drives the course of treatment.

 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).

ABA Therapy focuses on understanding behavior by its function, combined with examining the environment in order to develop a comprehensive strategy for behavior reduction.

ABA therapy is not limited to a specific population/diagnosis, age, or setting. ABA can be effective with a wide range of behaviors, challenges ranging from low to high intensity, and for simple, rote skills (e.g. putting on a sock) all the way up to more complicated and multi-component skills (e.g. decreasing high rates of employee turnover/resignations).


Examples of ABA Therapy goals could include:

Increase attending behaviors
Improve fine motor skills
Help with study skills for a college student
Extinguish self-injurious behaviors (SIB's) that cause harm
Reduce tantrumming behavior
Increase interaction among sibling groups
Generalize learned skills across environments
Social skill training for all ages (making friends, maintaining close relationships, dating, etc.)
A weight-loss or smoking cessation program for an adult
Successful homework completion
Increasing compliance to adult directives
Provide parent education in the area of behavior management 
Strategies for optimizing employee work performance and productivity
Intensive, comprehensive treatment (often appropriate for early intervention learners presenting with broad skill deficits and intensive problem behavior)
Brief, focused treatment (often appropriate for advanced learners presenting with a few areas of skill deficit, or moderate problem behavior)



If you would like more information about ABA or ABA Therapy, please see any of the links below:

http://autism.about.com/od/alllaboutaba/a/abaoverview.htm
http://www.abainternational.org/ba.asp
http://www.autism.com/index_b.asp
http://www.asatonline.org/treatment/treatments/applied.htm
 http://www.christinaburkaba.com/History.htm


 The Cooper book  (often called the "White Book")  is a more technical guide that I recommend for those wanting to dive into the concepts of terminology of ABA: 
Applied Behavior Analysis by Cooper, Heron, & Heward

No comments

Copyright T. Meadows 2011. All original content on this blog is protected by copyright. Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top