Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)


What is ABA?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a therapy based on the science of learning and behavior. ABA focuses on improving specific behaviors, such as communication and social skills, as well as decreasing maladaptive behaviors and teaching functional replacements. ABA is an evidence based practice known to be the most effective therapy for children with autism. It has also been shown that consistent ABA can significantly improve behaviors and skills and decrease the need for special services.

What does ABA intervention involve?

Functional Behavior Assessments are invaluable to quality ABA programs. They are designed to identify barriers to learning and establish interventions that are customized to the patient's skills, needs, interests, preferences and situation. For these reasons, an ABA program for one patient will look different than a program for another patient. Quality ABA programs have the following in common:

  • Comprehensive assessments by a qualified BCBA 
  • Treatment goals and instruction that is developmentally appropriate and target a broad range of skill areas such as communication, socialization, self-care, play and leisure, etc.
  • Goals that emphasize skills that will enable patients to become independent and successful, both short and long term (i.e. socially significant)
  • The intervention involves ongoing objective data-based measurement of the patient’s progress
  • Frequent review of information on the patient’s progress and the use of this to adjust procedures and goals as needed (i.e. data-driven)
  • A strong supervision structure


  • The instructor uses a variety of behavior analytic procedures
  • Family, caregivers and/or other involved professionals receive training so they can support learning and skill practice throughout the day
  • The patient’s day is structured to provide many opportunities – both planned and naturally occurring - to acquire and practice skills in both structured and unstructured settings
  • The patient receives an abundance of positive reinforcement for demonstrating useful skills and socially appropriate behaviors; the emphasis is on positive social interactions and enjoyable learning
  • The patient receives no reinforcement for behaviors that pose harm or prevent learning 

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Learn more about ABA!

Check out this great video on the history of ABA.