What is Applied Behavior Analysis?
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) “is the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree, and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behavior” (Baer, Wolf, & Risley, 1968). ABA is the gold standard in effective treatment for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders across the lifespan (ages 3 through adulthood), with the strongest body of supporting empirical evidence (NAC, 2015). Assessments are conducted to determine the functional relationship between a learner’s behavior and their environment. Skill acquisition and problem behavior reduction programs are then individually designed to target skill deficits and behavioral excesses. Data is collected and analyzed to
determine treatment efficacy and modifications to programs are made accordingly. The overarching goal of each program is to replace undesirable behaviors with functional skills to improve independence, inclusion, and quality of life.
Who is ABA appropriate for?
There is a misconception that ABA is only for very young children with Autism. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Most don’t realize that ABA is used in every learning or working environment across the lifespan regardless of ability. The delivery of ABA may look different depending on age, ability, and targets – but all programs employ the basic principles and data analysis to make positive changes in social, communication, independence, academic, leisure, vocational, and problem behaviors.
What does ABA look like for an adolescent, teen, or adult?
Using the empirically based procedures such as prompt fading, reinforcement, behavioral momentum, shaping, chaining, etc. we are able to increase desired behaviors and decrease problem behaviors. This teaching is conducted in a range of environments from highly structured (a table or desk) to more natural environments (kitchen, laundry, community based locations) to ensure generalization of skills across settings. An individualized ABA program allows participants to systematically work on the essential skills of becoming an independent adult including: communication (social, pragmatic, self-advocacy), safety (personal, internet), activities of daily living (meal prep, chores, hygiene), and so much more. ABA is also highly effective when utilized during group social skills instruction; using the same teaching procedures
we can build a variety of social interaction skills (negotiation, joining in, working collaboratively, developing and maintaining relationships, social cognition, etc.). There’s really no end to where ABA can effect positive changes in individuals with Autism across their lifespan.
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