What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

If you’ve asked yourself, ‘What is applied behavior analysis?’ or ‘What is ABA?’ or if someone has asked you one of these questions, this article can help give you an answer.

Applied behavior analysis is also known as ABA. ABA is a science. It can also be viewed as a professional service or a therapeutic intervention.

If you are familiar with other services, such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, counseling, or social work, you can think about ABA as being another type of human service like those fields just with different characteristics and a different approach, in some ways, to helping people.

Although, on a side note, ABA can also be used for animals as well as humans such as in animal training programs.

To get a free handout that gives more detail and explanation to the definition of ABA, you can go here.

The most basic way of defining ABA is to see it as being a service that is based upon the science of behavior and learning. This means that ABA is based upon what is found to be effective for helping living beings change behaviors and learn new things.

ABA helps us to learn about how people can improve behaviors in themselves and in other people. It can help people, children and adults, to learn and develop many different skills.

The foundation of ABA started in the early to mid 1900s. Applied behavior analysis has been evolving as a field since then and has grown rather quickly and extensively over the late 20th century and early part of the 21st century.

Research has been done on a variety of aspects of ABA. Research supports the effectiveness of using ABA to change behaviors and improve quality of life for various populations.

Environmental Influences

One of the main areas of focus in applied behavior analysis is the idea that the environment impacts behavior. From an ABA perspective, behavior is changed by what happens outside the individual.

Although, in ABA, it is important to consider internal factors such as biology or medical issues, but primarily, ABA focuses on how the environment, a person’s physical and social surroundings, impacts their behavior.

Socially Significant Behaviors

Another main focus of ABA is that intervention addresses socially significant behaviors. This means that ABA addresses behaviors, or issues, that are important to the person receiving the ABA or using applied behavior analysis.

Socially significant behaviors are those behaviors that are going to have a meaningful impact on quality of life.

ABA can be used for almost any behavior or learning related issue for humans and many animals.

Some examples of what ABA can be used for include:

  • Improving communication skills
  • Improving social skills
  • Reducing problem (or maladaptive) behaviors
  • Increasing a person’s independence
  • Teaching self-care skills
  • Teaching daily living skills
  • Teaching employment related skills
  • Improving academics
  • Improving relationships
  • Toilet training
  • Improving healthy habits
  • Improving sleep hygiene

These are just some examples of what applied behavior analysis can be used for. There are a lot of other behaviors and skills that can be supported with the use of ABA.

ABA can be used for people with a diagnosis, such as autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or oppositional defiant disorder, as well as people without a diagnosis.

ABA can be provided in many different ways. It is individualized to the person receiving the services.

ABA may be provided as an intensive service as it is often seen with children who have autism spectrum disorder. As an intensive service, ABA may be provided for 20-40 hours a week to a young child with ASD. This service may be provided by a trained behavior technician with oversight by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

Another example of how ABA could be done is in a parent training model where an ABA provider meets one to two times a week for 1-2 hour sessions with a parent to help a parent learn ways to improve their child’s behaviors and skills.

For more information on using ABA in a parent training service, you can visit the site: www.ABAparenttraining.com or check out the One-Year ABA Parent Training Curriculum or the ABA Parent Training Membership Program.

ABA might also be done in a consultation model where a trained ABA professional consults with an individual or an organization to provide recommendations on how to help the client create and achieve goals. This could be seen with health and wellness supports or in organizational behavior management.

ABA can also be provided as a one on one service as well as in group settings.

There are many different strategies that are used in ABA to help people improve behaviors and skills.

Some examples of ABA based strategies include:

  • positive reinforcement
  • negative reinforcement
  • extinction
  • prompts
  • modeling
  • task analysis
  • self-management

These are only a few examples of how ABA is used. There are many, many more examples of how ABA can be done and the strategies that could be used within ABA to help people achieve their goals.

What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)?

We have gone over some of the characteristics of ABA.

To learn more about ABA, check out the online course: ‘What is ABA? Introduction to the Field of Applied Behavior Analysis.’