What is it?
Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is not a therapy in itself, but a theory or a set of principles on which some therapies are based.
The theory identifies various teaching techniques that generally involve breaking down complex skills (or behaviours) into smaller steps and teaching them through the use of clear instructions, rewards and repetition.
Who is it for?
ABA teaching techniques can be used for any child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
What is it used for?
The ABA approach and its techniques can help children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) learn new ways of interacting with others, improve academically and use the skills they learn in different settings – at home, school and in the community.
It can also help children learn to replace difficult behaviour with more appropriate behaviour, such as using words to ask for an object rather than screaming. For example, the skills children learn might include using words and language, following instructions, taking turns, playing with others, toileting and dressing.
Where does it come from?
ABA is an approach based on learning theory and the theory of behavioural psychology, which have been around since the early 1900s.
What is the idea behind it?
The key idea behind ABA is that most human behaviour is learned through our interaction with our environment. What happens before and after any behaviour influences the likelihood of it being repeated. For example, if behaviour is rewarded, it’s more likely to happen again. If it’s not rewarded, or is ignored or punished, it’s less likely to happen again.
ABA uses this idea to teach and encourage new and appropriate behaviour in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
What does it involve?
ABA-based programs generally involve:
- assessing the child’s current skills and difficulties
- setting goals and objectives – for example, learning how to say ‘hello’
- measuring how often the behaviour or skill happens currently
- designing and implementing a program that teaches the ‘target’ skill
- ongoing measurement of the ‘target’ skill to see whether the program is working
- ongoing evaluation of the program itself, making changes as needed.
How programs incorporate and apply these elements will vary. The way they’re applied will also vary from one child to the next. For example, an ABA-based program can be run in the family home, at a clinic, school or centre (such as an early intervention service), or in a combination of two or more of these settings.