What is Applied Behaviour Analysis?

What is Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA)?   

ABA is the application of the science of learning to teach socially significant behaviours. Most commonly ABA relies on individual motivation and reinforcement to teach skills in the following domains. ABA is the foundation of Early Intensive Behaviour Intervention and Positive Behaviour Support programs.    

  •  Teaching replacement behaviours to reduce challenging behaviour 
  •  Independence and Daily Living Skills 
  •  Language Skills
  •  Communication Skills
  •  Social Skills 
  • Academics 
  • Play Skills  

ABA gives us a huge toolbox of strategies to help teach many skills. 

Some of these strategies include: 

  •  Prompting and prompt fading
  • Using a first-then contingency 
  • Using visual supports 
  • Breaking skills into their smallest components  

Is ABA an evidence-based treatment for Autism and Developmental Disorders?  

 ABA is an evidence-based approach for helping individuals with ASD and Developmental Disorders achieve many of their goals and milestones. In ABA we look to increase adaptive behaviours and reduce maladaptive behaviours with the sole purpose of increasing independence, social connection, and quality of life factors.   

In early intervention the recommended number of therapy hours is 20 hours per week. 20 hours is not spent sitting at a table but can be spent at school, in the home, therapy and participating in social skills programs.   

It is also recommended to begin ABA early when you first start to notice concerns about your child’s development. Waiting can result in your child falling further behind their peers, or allow challenging behaviour related to communication challenges to become more severe. In some cases you might start ABA at the age of 3 years old.   

Examples of ABA being applied to teach skills in therapy 

Increasing Communication Skills – In the case that a child is having difficulty requesting their needs and wants and is instead pulling, or hitting their parent when they want something, ABA could be used to teach the child to request vocally, with an alternative communication device, with pictures or sign language. Replacing the behaviour of hitting and pulling with communication will reduce the child’s frustration by increasing their access to things they want and need. The child will no longer rely on hitting or pulling to access these things.  

Increasing Independence –  In the case that a child would like to learn to make a sandwich independently, we might break the task into its smallest components and teach these component skills step by step. For example, first we might need to teach the student how to spread with a knife. Second, we might teach the student to follow the steps of making a sandwich in the kitchen, using a visual schedule.   

Who is qualified to supervise an ABA program?  

Board Certified Behaviour Analysts (BCBA) and Psychologists with specialised training have a masters level qualification and have completed thousands of hours of supervision in order to give them the skills necessary to conduct behavioural assessments, write ABA programs, teach skills, reduce challenging behaviour and supervise Behaviour Therapists and parents helping to implement an ABA program.  

Your BCBA will conduct a behavioural assessment and write a developmental program which is tailored to the individuals’ specific deficits, current skills, and personal goals. Goals that are selected should be socially significant and directly beneficial the individuals’ quality of life and increase the choice and control they have over their own lives. A good program will ensure that these skills are generalisable to all the environments the student participates in (i.e., home, community, and school).   

Therapy Assistants and Behaviour Therapists  

Therapy assistants implement a program designed by the supervisor, take progress data, and provide feedback to the supervisor after each session. Behaviour Therapists need to undertake a 40-hour course and then take a competency assessment with a supervisor. Although crucial to the child’s development overall, Behaviour Therapists are not required to make clinical decisions, or make program updates without a supervisor’s support, or guidance. Therapy Assistants allow the ABA program to be practiced more frequently and in multiple locations each week, increasing the overall effectiveness and generality of the program. 

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