What is ABA?

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is best known for its success in treating individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities (e.g., Down syndrome, intellectual disabilities). Treatment in this area is effective across an individual’s lifespan (i.e., childhood, adolescence, adulthood). In young children with developmental disabilities such as ASD, the goal of intensive, comprehensive intervention is to improve cognitive, language, social, and self-help skills. Decades of research have shown that intensive ABA treatment is the most successful approach for children with autism, and it is widely recognized by a number of sources including the U.S. Surgeon General, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Institute of Mental Health.

When applied to older individuals, ABA involves teaching behaviors essential to functioning effectively in the home, school, and community. ABA can also decrease severe problem behaviors that endanger health and safety, and limit educational, residential, or vocational options. (BACB, 2021).

ABA is a science devoted to understanding and improving human behavior. ABA focuses on socially significant behaviors and research-based strategies to improve targeted behaviors by using objective description, measurement, and experimentation to demonstrate reliable relations between interventions and behavioral improvements (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2017).

Applied behavior analysis focuses on the prediction and control of socially important behavior. Behavior includes anything an individual does while interacting with the environment, including observable behavior and private events. ABA focuses on objective measurement and analysis of the environmental variables of which problem and appropriate behaviors are functions (Fisher & Piazza, 2015)

Fisher, W.W. and Piazza, C.C. (2015). Applied Behavior Analysis. In The Encyclopedia of Clinical Psychology (eds R.L. Cautin and S.O. Lilienfeld). https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118625392.wbecp205

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