Applied Behavior Analysis: What is it really?

In Behavior Analysis the focus of study is direct observation of behavior and the relationship between environmental events and responses (behavior) they evoke. The field of applying these principles to improve socially significant behavior is called Applied Behavior Analysis, also know as ABA. ABA looks at the relationship between a behavior emitted by an individual and the environment in which the individual resides. Behavior Analysts believe that the relationship between a person and his/her environment will determine the behavior of this person. Practitioners and researchers in an array of fields including education, psychology, child development, organizational management, and even climate change have adopted behavior analytic strategies.

Contrary to popular belief, ABA is an approach not a procedure. In other words it is comprised of a multitude of varied evidence-based strategies. The ABA approach involves rearranging the environment to increase the likelihood that desirable behaviors will occur while decreasing the likelihood that problematic behaviors will occur. Some popular and well researched tactics used by behavior analysts include reinforcement, prompting, and manipulation of motivation to promote engagement. These practices are implemented in the context of teaching strategies such as Positive Behavior Support, Discrete Trial Training, Incidental Teaching, and Natural Environment Training techniques to name a few. ABA may be implemented in discrete 1:1 settings as well as more loosely structured group settings. Application of this scientific approach is individualized to fit the needs of the learner.

Finally, and likely most importantly, ABA is evidence-based. Years of successful implementation of repeated applications of varied interventions to different populations, across multiple contexts, and by an array of practitioners have demonstrated the scientific merit of this approach. We have observed positive results resulting from application of these strategies time and time again. ABA tactics have been used in teaching toilet training, treating challenging behaviors, social skills training, addressing eating and feeding concerns, and acquiring academic skills. ABA is accepted as a viable form of treatment by government agencies, health insurance companies, and research institutions worldwide because it works.


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