What is ABA?

ABA stands for applied behavior analysis. It is the science that seeks to explain why we do what we do. ABA research scientists have studied and changed an enormous range of human behaviors – everything from increasing recycling, driving more slowly, reducing the fear of public speaking, quitting smoking, exercising more often, and a virtually infinite number of other behaviors. When a person starts to use a new behavior they could do not do before, we call that learning. Learning is one of the most important behaviors that ABA addresses. ABA is used to help people with and without disabilities, but it is probably best known as a treatment for people with autism.

High quality ABA programs give children new skills, increase the use of skills the child already has, reduce any problem behaviors, and make sure that the changes that were made remain even after the program has ended.

Designing an effective program for each child requires careful ongoing analysis. The board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) working with your child is thoroughly trained in how to decide which behaviors to change (or teach), how to change them, determining whether behaviors have changed after our strategies were implemented, and ensuring that any desired changes remain after the program is
ended.

To find out what behaviors (or skills) need to increase, the skills that will be actually needed in the natural environment need to be identified. We start with a thorough grounding in what skills other children of the same age have. Then we do a detailed assessment of each client’s skill levels. The differences between the two sets of skill levels give us a starting point for skills that need to be addressed. Basic language skills such as asking for desired items and activities, conversational skills that allow a child to interact with other children, play skills that allow a child to play both interactively with other children and alone, and functional skills such as toileting are needed in virtually all natural environments. As children progress, more complex skills such as maintaining conversations, interacting with children (rather than adults) in childcare or school recess settings, attending and learning in a group, and much more complex language and other skills can be introduced.

ABA programs use data collected for each skill every day . The data tell us exactly what is going well, what can be moved ahead a little faster, and what may need some changes. At OAI, data are constantly reviewed and analyzed by the BCBA to make sure each child’s program is moving him or her forward as quickly as possible.

Finally, the purpose of an ABA program is to prepare the child to be successful after the program ends. All of the extra supports are systematically removed or transitioned to a less intensive model, and the child’s behaviors are observed to make sure that learning and growth in all areas continues. A successful program is one that allows a child to maximize his or her potential for as much independence as possible.