What is Applied Behaviour Analysis?
Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is a therapy based on the science of learning and behaviour.
Behaviour analysis helps us to understand:
- How behaviour works
- How behaviour is affected by the environment
- How learning takes place
ABA therapy applies our understanding of how behaviour works to real situations. The goal is to increase behaviours that are helpful and decrease behaviours that are harmful or affect learning.
ABA therapy programs can help:
- Increase language and communication skills
- Improve attention, focus, social skills, memory, and academics
- Decrease problem behaviours
The methods of behaviour analysis have been used and studied for decades. They have helped many kinds of learners gain different skills – from healthier lifestyles to learning a new language. Therapists have used ABA to help children with autism and related developmental disorders since the 1960s.
How does ABA therapy work?
Applied Behaviour Analysis involves many techniques for understanding and changing behaviour. ABA is a flexible treatment:
- Can be adapted to meet the needs of each unique person
- Provided in many different locations – at home, at school, and in the community
- Teaches skills that are useful in everyday life
- Can involve one-to-one teaching or group instruction
Positive reinforcement is one of the main strategies used in ABA.
Very simplistically when a behaviour is followed by something that is valued (a reward), a person is more likely to repeat that behaviour. Over time, this encourages positive behaviour change.
First, the Phycologist and ABA therapist identifies a goal behaviour. Each time the person uses the behaviour or skill successfully, they get a small reward. The reward is meaningful to the individual – examples include simple praise or high five, a toy or book, watching a video, access to playground or other location, and more.
Positive rewards encourage the person to continue using the skill. Over time this leads to meaningful behaviour change.
What Does an ABA Program Involve?
Good ABA programs are not „one size fits all.“ ABA should not be viewed as a canned set of drills. Rather, each program is written to meet the needs of the individual learner.
The goal of any ABA program is to help each person work on skills that will help them become more independent and successful in the short term as well as in the future.
What is the evidence that ABA works?
ABA is considered an evidence-based best practice treatment by the US Surgeon General and by the American Psychological Association.
“Evidence based” means that ABA has passed scientific tests of its usefulness, quality, and effectiveness. ABA therapy includes many different techniques. All of these techniques focus on antecedents (what happens before a behaviour occurs) and on consequences (what happens after the behaviour). Is it paramount to collected data and graph results to rigorously monitor the success of the programme as it progresses so the Psychologist is constantly informed of progress and able to alter to change a programme to better suit the child or adult in question.