Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the practical application and analysis of the theoretical and philosophical foundations of behaviorism. B.F. Skinner, the founding father of the science of behavior, was the first to develop the principles of ABA.
ABA began in the late 1940's and grew rapidly in the 1960's. Ivar Lovaas and others demonstrated that ABA is the most effective way to help individuals with autism learn new skills, refine previously learned skills, and enjoy more independent and productive lives.
ABA is defined as the science in which procedures derived from the principles of behavior are systematically applied to improve socially significant behavior to a meaningful degree and to demonstrate experimentally that the procedures employed were responsible for the improvement in behavior.
What separates ABA from other disciplines with similar intent is its focus, goals, and methodology. In ABA, the focus is on operationally defining target behaviors. The goals are to identify environmental conditions in which the behaviors are likely to occur. The methodology consists of description, quantification, and analysis of the intervention.
ABA looks at what Skinner defined as the three-term contingency: antecedents, behaviors, and consequences. Shaping or changing behavior requires shaping the environment. In order to do that we must look at what immediately precedes the behavior (antecedent) and what immediately follows the behavior (consequence).Therefore, in ABA we do not look to shape behaviors necessarily, we look to shape three term contingencies.
Antecedents are changed to either prevent a certain behavior from occurring or to encourage a certain behavior. You may also change behavior by altering the consequences. Consequences are also changed to prevent a particular behavior from occurring or to encourage a specific behavior. Simply stated, ABA is a way of analyzing, understanding, and modifying human behavior.
One of the key principles in ABA is that of reinforcement. Behavior analysts have used the principle of reinforcement to increase skills in all aspects of development, including communication and socialization. In teaching new skills, the behavior analyst ensures that reinforcement and shaping of the desired behavior occurs, that instruction is consistent across environments, and that there is generalization to novel settings.
Behavior analysts have also used the principle of reinforcement to reduce and eliminate maladaptive behaviors. When faced with a challenging behavior, one must:
The program is then systematically reviewed and revised as necessary. In doing a functional assessment, behavior analysts identify and evaluate the components of the three term contingency to foster behavior change.
The primary methods of instruction in ABA are discrete trial teaching and incidental/natural environment teaching. Discrete trial teaching is defined as a form of behavioral sequence used to maximize learning. Discrete trial instruction uses a structured learning environment to teach novel information that will be generalized across all environments.
Incidental teaching occurs in the natural environment, is initiated by the individual (the target behavior is chosen by the individual), and provides the individual with naturally occurring consequences of skills while promoting generalization of skills. QSAC is a community-based not-for-profit organization that utilizes the principles of applied behavior analysis to help improve the lives of individuals with autism and their families. All QSAC staff are trained in ABA and use these techniques in the center-based programs, in the home and in the community. QSAC staff always use positive reinforcement as the primary means of changing behavior. If you have any questions or for more information, please call us at (718) 7-AUTISM.