ABA, what is it and how does it work.

ABA therapy room for teaching ASD children

Applied Behavior Analysis. “Applied” means practice, rather than research or philosophy. “Behavior analysis” may be read as “learning theory,” that is, understanding what leads to (or doesn’t lead to) new skills. (This is a simplification: ABA is just as much about maintaining and using skills as about learning.)


It may seem odd to use the word “behavior” when talking about learning to talk, play, and live as a complex social animal, but to a behaviorist all these can be taught, so long as there are intact brain functions to learn and practice the skills. That is the essence of the recovery hypothesis for many children, the excesses and deficits of autism result largely from a learning ‘blockage,’ which can be overcome by intensive teaching.

Typically developing children learn without our intervention the world around them provides the right conditions to learn language, play, and social skills. Children with autism learn much, much less easily from the environment. They  have the potential to learn, but it takes a very structured environment, one where conditions are optimised for acquiring the same skills that typical children learn “naturally.” ABA is all about how to set up the environment to enable our kids to learn.

Behavior analysis dates back at least to Skinner, who performed experiments showing that rewards lead to behavior changes (learning).

People, in general, respond to a broad range of reinforcements (rewards); an ABA teacher will use a range of reinforcers and rewards depending on what the child responds best to.

The most common and distinguishing type of intervention based on applied behavior analysis is discrete trial teaching. It is what people most often think of when you say “ABA” or “Lovaas method.”
We have been using ABA style therapy with Isy from a very early stage. We particularly have followed the Lovaas method and have had good success with her learning. She can read spell and write, she has basic maths skills and is now starting to increase her communication and conversation skills.
We believe that it is extremely important to make learning fun and rewarding for these kids, and we have found that when it is they just want to learn and soak it all up.

Liz has been working with Isy for ten years now and has built up an incredible amount of resources which she now uses with other Autistic / ASD children in her purpose built therapy room. Click here to see a range of resources that Liz has built up to use along with ABA therapy.

Below is the book which Liz used extensively to tailor Isy’s and other autistic childrens ABA style programs. We highly recommend this book as a guide and reference for teaching children in the Autism Spectrum – Teaching Individuals With Developmental Delays: Basic Intervention Techniques by O. Ivar Lovaas

Information source and original article author: Richard Saffran

© 2011, EJ Banon. All rights reserved.

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