Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA therapy is one of the most popular interventions for children with Autism and related disorders. There have been some misconceptions about the practice. Many people see ABA as a small set of practices instead of the wide range of lifestyles changes that can improve an individual’s behavior and life.
“Applied Behavior Analysis is the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree.” The goal of ABA is to bring scientific principles of human behavior and apply them to real life issues. “Applied” means interventions are focused on socially important or appropriate goals, such as guiding individuals to be more successful in school, home, community, and other natural environments. “Behavior” means ABA only sees behavior as something you do or say and not assumptions or interpretations. “Analytic” is the assessment used to determine the relationship between behavior and the environment. For example, Dillan hits his mom while she cooks when he gets hungry to get her attention instead of communicating appropriately or waiting pateintly.
Data collection is a big part of ABA to keep track of whether behavior is changing in a desired way or goals are being met. The expectation is that individuals should be able to generalize across settings, people, situations, and maintain overtime. ABA therapy and practices are based on a “three term-contingency” antecedent, behavior, and consequence. “Antecedent” means that behavior occurs in response to something in the environment, so what happened before the behavior occurred? “Behavior” is the reaction to whatever happened in the environment. “Consequence” is the result of the behavior. An example is: Billy went to the park with his mom and got a lollipop, he accidentally dropped his lollipop (antecedent) he begins to throw a tantrum (behavior) mom takes him out of the park (consequence).
ABA practices also involve certain elements such as reinforcement and consequences. Reinforcement increase the likelihood of the behavior reoccurring, consequences decrease the likelihood of a behavior occurring again. Functions of behavior are the reasons why the behavior is happening. There are 4 functions of behavior attention seeking, escape, tangibles, and self-stimulation, most behaviors happen for a reason and they typically fall under one of these. And another element is teaching replacement behaviors that are positive so the individual will not have to rely on problem behaviors.
ABA is very comprehensive and has many different components. The approach taken for each individual is different depending on the case. All in all anyone can benefit from ABA and we use it unknowingly. Some may need it more than others but we all have behaviors and with consistency and reinforcement they can be changed, decreased, increased, or taught.