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What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

If you have an autistic loved one or are interested in the fields of developmental education and psychology, you’ve likely heard of applied behavior analysis, or ABA.

This concept uses behavior principles to teach and guide individuals in their everyday lives in order to affect a targeted behavior or set of behaviors. ABA is often used in special education and counseling settings to help autistic individuals learn more appropriate actions and coping mechanisms when encountering obstacles.

The behavioral interventions used in this approach have proven to be quite effective in such areas as social interactions, daily living activities, emotional control, self-management and more.

Keep reading to learn more about ABA and how it can be used to promote desirable behaviors in autistic children and help them to lead more independent, productive lives.

About ABA

As noted, ABA is a discipline in which concepts from learning theory and behavior modification are used to help individuals learn appropriate skills for interacting with others, handling stressful situations, performing life tasks and being academically successful. It is a modality that has shown to be very effective in autistic populations and is used often in child counseling and special education.

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Not only are behavioral interventions and principles used to promote or distinguish specific behaviors, measurable goals are set and monitored so that practitioners are able to determine a student’s level of progress. If progress is not being made, a new goal is added or the former one is reassessed, and chances are made.

Uses of ABA

The principles of applied behavior analysis can be used to increase or decrease nearly any observable behavior. Socially significant behaviors are often addressed through the use of ABA. The kinds of things include socializing with peers, academic performance, domestic tasks and communication. Even the skills necessary for basic living such as toileting, dressing and eating, as well as gross and fine motor skills.

Components of ABA

There are several components that should be a part of successful ABA programs for autistic children. The first of these is known as antecedent manipulation. This type of action occurs prior to the occurrence of a targeted behavior and are used to positively influence or manipulate that behavior. Comprehensive intervention covers the kinds of interventions that make up a successful program such as adequate number of intensive treatment hours and individual attention through low student to teacher ratios. Joint attention intervention encourages appropriate social interaction and response between individuals.

Next on the list is modeling, which is just as it sounds and involves demonstrating the desired behavior for the child’s benefit. Naturalistic teaching strategies are methods that are strategically used in a student’s everyday environment in order to enhance retention of the skill. Another useful component is peer training, which is the chance for autistic children to learn new skills from their classmates. Pivotal response training targets specific behaviors that affect a number of other aspects of the child’s overall daily performance. Self-management activities provide reward to the student for regulating his or her own behavior. Finally, story-based interventions are teaching methods that use stories to demonstrate a sequence of appropriate behaviors.

Now that you are familiar with what applied behavior analysis is and the components of quality programming, you can see why ABA is used so prolifically when helping individuals with autism.