What is ABA?

Jeffrey Oliver

on May 12, 2015

ABA stands for Applied Behavior Analysis. ABA seeks to apply the principles of behavioral science to change specific behaviors of individuals in a socially significant and acceptable way. Behavior Analysts (practitioners of ABA) focus on environmental contributions to behavior in order to change them.

Baer, Wolf, and Risley (1968), three prominent, early practitioners of ABA, outlined seven dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis that still guide its practice today. These seven dimensions are:

APPLIED – ABA targets behavior, stimuli, and/or organisms that are important to man and society for intervention. This means that behavior analysts will only focus on behaviors that are important for a learner’s functioning in their environment; whether that be their home, school, or elsewhere and can include parents, siblings, teachers, peers, or others.

BEHAVIORAL – ABA is concerned with what a person can do. Behavior Analysts typically focus on observable behaviors. That is, while Behavior Analysts define thinking and other “private events” (behaviors that can only be observed by those performing them) as behavior, they typically do not seek to intervene on those behaviors as they are not readily observable. Instead, Behavior Analysts focus on those behaviors they can “see” and record.

ANALYTIC –ABA evaluates environmental events to determine their influence over behavior. Behavior Analysts must take data on behavior and make treatment decisions based on their recorded data. Behavior Analysts will always have a way to track behavior and analyze its changes.

TECHNOLOGICAL – this domain does not refer to the incorporation of computers/tablets/other electronic devices into therapies. Instead, it refers to an exact description of the interventions used so that others may then replicate these interventions.

CONCEPTUALLY SYSTEMATIC – as mentioned above, Applied Behavior Analysis seeks to connect our interventions to the underlying principles of behavior. By connecting our interventions to the underlying principles of behavior we can reasonably expect them to be effective.

EFFECTIVE – ABA is effective. By effective we mean that we achieve changes in behaviors that are significant for all of those affected by the behavior. For instance, teaching a child to request items allows them to access those items more easily and may result in less problem behaviors that would come with an inability to access desired items.

GENERALIZABLE – ABA changes behavior in such a way that the changes last, occur in a variety of environments, and spread to a variety of different behaviors. When behavior analysts teach a skill we teach the learner to demonstrate that skill in a variety of places, with a variety of people, and for as long as the learner needs that particular skill.

An Applied Behavior Analyst is going to work on important behaviors, to achieve significant change that lasts, using a proven science of behavior to develop and monitor individualized plans for learners to ensure effective learning.

To read the original journal article, go here.

For more information about ABA visit the BACB website or contact one of our Behavior Analysts.

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