Applied Behavior Analysis is the use of behavior principles to solve practical problems. Behaviorism is a branch of Psychology that sees an individual’s environment as providing reinforcers that shape or change behaviors. In addressing problem behaviors, ABA identifies the antecedents and consequences of the behavior in order to understand what motivates and sustains the behaviors. Once known, negative behaviors can be shaped into more positive or socially acceptable behaviors through the use of behavior modification techniques.
Over the past twenty years, the application of ABA principles to interventions for children with diagnoses such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) and Asperger’s Syndrome have demonstrated statistically significant results in not only managing problem behaviors, but also in identifying methods for teaching new skills. Treatment modalities utilized include Discrete Trial Training, Play Therapy, Picture Exchange Communication Systems, Social Stories and Theory of Mind interventions. The United States Surgeon General has endorsed the ABA method as the treatment of choice for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
ABA is also appropriate for use with individuals diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive behaviors, behavioral disorders and phobias. Breaking of habitual patterns of behaviors is reinforced with ABA.
The approach includes training, assessment and program development that addresses the unique behavioral, emotional, social and communication issues of a given client. An ABA consultant is trained in the principles of behaviorism, which serve to modify negative behaviors, as well as teach novel skills. A consultant will conduct behavioral observations, gather data and conduct interviews with parents and other professionals. Once problems have been identified, a behavioral treatment plan will be developed to meet the child’s specific needs.
Research literature indicates that early intervention with intensive levels of service have demonstrated statistically significant levels of skill attainment and positive behavior management in children who receive this type of intervention. Services beginning as early as 30 months of age for children with Developmental Disorder has contributed to huge gains in social interaction skills, compliance levels and communication skills. Most research has studied the effects with young children, although there are now growing indications that older children can also benefit from interventions based on behavioral principles. School aged children receiving these interventions have shown improvements in social and communication skills, as well as positive behavior management. Behavioral interventions are appropriate as early as age two and can be effective through the primary school ages and across the life span.