What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

What is Applied Behavior Analysis?


Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA is an approach to changing behaviors that impede social skills, communication, and learning that uses scientifically established principles of behavior change. Frequently, behavior analysts work with children on the autism spectrum; however, ABA therapy can address any individual’s observable and measurable behavior. By increasing positive behaviors and decreasing negative behaviors, ABA seeks to improve an individual’s overall quality of life.

How does Applied Behavior Analysis Help?

ABA has been used to significantly improve life skills such as communication, social skills, focus, memory, reading, academics, hygiene, grooming, domestic capabilities, and job competence. Backed by years of scientific research, ABA improves socially significant behaviors; and according to the Center for Autism, it is the most effective therapeutic intervention for helping individuals with autism.

Behavior analysts understand how behavior is learned and how behavior can be changed over time. Analysts evaluate their client’s behavior, and they develop flexible treatment plans based on principles of behavior such as positive reinforcement. Because each person is unique, treatment plans are individualized, heavily monitored, and continuously evaluated to track progress.

Ideally, with the help of a behavior therapist, parents, teachers, and other service providers such as occupational therapists and speech pathologists, learn to implement the behavioral strategies in your child’s plan. By working as a collaborative team, they help your child master tasks from one situation to the next. Learn more about applied behavior analysis and how it especially benefits children with autism.

What is the role of the ABA practitioner?

The ABA practitioner refers to both behavior analysts and behavior technicians. Behavior analysts discuss current challenges and goals with caregivers, observe and record detailed data on a problem behavior, and develop a behavior plan that includes techniques to alter the problem behavior and teach adaptive skills. A behavior technician implements strategies outlined in the behavior plan to help an individual make progress towards their treatment goals.

When should a child start an ABA program?

Early intervention is key to improving a child’s behavior. If you suspect that your child would benefit from ABA services, seek help from a professional as soon as possible. Infants and toddlers have tremendous brain plasticity and learning potential, so don’t wait. Contact ABA Solutions for a referral.

What to expect?

An ABA team may be comprised of an agency director, team supervisor, and behavior technicians who work closely with other service providers such as an occupational therapists or physical therapist. Initially, they will begin assessing your child. Through interviews, standardized assessments, observations of home or school environments, and interactions with your child, the team will work with you and your child to address the concerns.

Informal assessments may look like the behavior analyst is simply playing with your child, but he or she is actually developing a rapport and assessing your child’s abilities. During assessments, tasks are interspersed with play to help motivate your child. The idea is to keep your child engaged as the analyst assesses your child’s skills and observes what skills need to be improved. The analyst records data on problem behaviors, analyzes the data, and designs a behavior plan to correct the behavior. Learn more about building a therapy plan.


Catania, A.C. (2007). Learning interim (4th ed). Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY: Sloan.

Elle Olivia Johnson, A Parent’s Guide To In-Home ABA Programs. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. London and Philadelphia. 2013.

Psychology Today

Johnson, Elle Olivia. (2013). A Parent’s Guide to In-Home ABA Programs. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London and Philadelphia