Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is a group of teaching or instructional techniques based on the science and principles of behavior. These techniques are used to teach socially significant skills to a person in an effort to establish meaningful outcomes for the individual.
Research has shown ABA to be one of the most effective interventions for individuals diagnosed with autism.
The goal of ABA is to help clients reach their fullest potential by helping them develop skills that support independence and also by decreasing any behaviors that may be impeding learning and limiting access to their community.
Common Skills Taught with ABA
– Communication Skills: These skills are critical to expressing one’s wants and needs.
– Personal Independence Skills: These skills allow for clients to be independent in their homes with things like dressing or toileting, independent in their community such as planning/accessing community activities and making purchases and independence in their schools and/or jobs by helping with organization, job skills, interviewing skills, etc.
– Play and Leisure Skills: For children, learning naturally occurs in play. Being able to participate in play opens up lots of learning and social opportunities. Being able to fill “down time” with activities that are enjoyable and meaningful to the individual can go a long way in improving overall quality of life.
– Advocacy Skills: These skills assist an individual in successfully asking for help, efficiently getting their needs met and effectively protesting.
– Safety Skills: These skills focus on helping clients be safe within their environment.
– Social Skills: These skills support clients in interactions with others: initiation of interactions, joining in, taking turns in play, conversational skills, etc.
How Does it Work?
Applied: We already mentioned that ABA is the application of behavior principles to teach meaningful skills and decrease behaviors that are impeding. But what are these behavior principles?
Behavior: Essential principles of behavior are used in ABA. These principles say that behavior is an interaction with one’s environment that functions to serve that individual. Behavior happens for a reason and understanding that reason is crucial! By understanding that reason we can use the principle of reinforcement to strengthen behaviors or teach alternative behaviors that can serve those functions for the client.
Analysis: Finally, the progress of a client is analyzed to determine if the way in which we are teaching the client is working for them, or if we need to make changes to our techniques. There is not a one size fits all and data can help with individualizing the program for the client to support their personal strengths and address their personal needs. Data allows therapists to make informed decisions and systematic changes to each client’s program.