Applied Behavior Analysis

With Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), a specific skills are taught by breaking them down into small steps, teaching each step one at a time, building on the previous one. Different methods are used to help the child learn, such as prompting (helping the child by guiding him through the desired response), shaping, and rewarding (for correct responses). ABA has been used for many years to successfully teach individuals of varying abilities, and can be used to teach in all skill areas, including academic, self-help skills, speech and language, and socially appropriate behaviour.


B.F. Skinner is the grandfather of ABA, thanks to his study of ‘operant conditioning’ and his book The Behavior of Organisms published in 1938. ABA is based on the theory that all learned behaviors have an antecedent (what happened before the behavior was exhibited) and a consequence (what happened after the behavior was exhibited) and that all such behavior is shaped by the consequences of our actions, meaning that we are motivated by the consequence to repeat that behavior.


Some of the terms used in ABA include:


Task Analysis: This consists of analyzing a skill or task that needs to be taught, by identifying each step of the skill, and which steps the person needs to learn.


Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT): This is a method of teaching that is very systematic and consists of the teacher’s presentation or request, the child’s response, and the consequence to that response (i.e. a reward if correct)


The Lovaas Method: This is an intensive ABA program developed by Dr O. I. Lovaas at the UCLA Young Autism Project and aimed at pre-school children. In 1987 Lovaas published a study that showed dramatic results on 19 children with autism who had received intensive ABA therapy. In 1993, eight of the nine were still enrolled in mainstream classes and had lost none of their skills.

Verbal Behavior Therapy: This is ABA therapy as it pertains to language behavior and is based on Skinner’s behavioral analysis of language.

Errorless Learning   (no mistake learning) :When a new behavior is taught it is important for the student to be successful from the beginning.  Thus, teachers prompt  a successful behavior, hand over hand, if necessary.  The prompts are gradually removed so that the behavior will eventually occur simply to a request or some other cue.

Care should be taken when choosing ABA providers. For more information on board certified providers, go to competent professional will most certainly be a member of the Association for Behavior Analysis, website .

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