Facts About Applied Behavior Analysis

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) methodology involves the application of basic behavioral practices (positive reinforcement, repetition, and prompting) to facilitate the development of language, positive skills, and social behavior as well as to help reduce everyday social problems and serious behavior disorders.

Data collected through hundreds of studies currently indicate that ABA is a highly effective method to teach children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other developmental disabilities. ABA methods are not specific to autism. These principles are used with typical children, adults,

Is ABA safe?

Tested by research and experience for more than 35 years, ABA practices have been endorsed by the Surgeon General, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Association for Science in Autism Research. The skills and experience of an ABA professional are essential for successful treatment. Continuous and systematic evaluation of effectiveness is a fundamental component of the ABA methodology.

What type of problems can ABA address?

ABA can be used to teach a variety of skills and positive behaviors, including language, reading, social skills, positive peer support, academic engagement, functional living skills, and more. ABA methodology is also effective in decreasing inappropriate behaviors such as noncompliance, tantrums, bed-wetting, feeding problems, aggression, and self-injury.

At what age can a child benefit from ABA?

ABA can be effective in working with individuals of all ages. However, research shows that skill development programs provided at a young age foster better outcomes and can often reduce the likelihood of more severe or dangerous behaviors later in life.

In what environments are ABA techniques used?

ABA techniques work across all environments-work, home, school, and the community. Using ABA techniques to develop a comprehensive home based intervention program for children with ASD often requires a significant commitment of time and energy from parents and other caregivers. Even so, there are significant benefits to working in the home. Communication between parents and support staff can lead to early identification of problems, and elements that are clearly relevant to the child can be incorporated into practice. In addition, working in the home provides the opportunity to include those people who are closest to the child into the teaching of important life skills such as communication, play, and functional living.

Likewise, children in school benefit from familiarity with educational settings and doing activities that are relevant to them. In a school setting, it can also become clear when generalization (i.e., transferring skills from one situation to another) is problematic. Teachers, therapists, and parents can work together at school and in the home to put interventions in place to help a child demonstrate desired skills in multiple settings. Teamwork can make all the difference in helping children reach their potential!

How do you identify a qualified ABA professional and what should you expect?

Professionals utilizing ABA techniques should have solid practical experience in the field and meet high educational and professional standards. Ideally, they should have an advanced degree such as a Master’s, a Ph.D or Psy.D, and board certification by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).

Before utilizing ABA practices, qualified professionals should evaluate a child with behavioral problems to identify his or her specific needs for intervention and support. They will observe a child in several situations to determine where and why the problem behavior occurs. Once an evaluation is complete, a recommendation can be made regarding the type of program and setting that is best for the child and the family.

Is ABA the right choice?

Parents who feel their child might be helped by ABA-based procedures should take several things into consideration: the time and resources of the family, the severity of the behaviors, and the help available in the community.

Guidelines for Evaluating Expertise in ABA Programs

Programs based on the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA) have evolved over the past 35 years. The best available evidence to date suggests that ABA produces the most impressive gains in skill development for individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder ASD – autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).

The following questions and answers address issues that are critical to identifying organizations or programs that provide quality ABA services.

Does the organization have a track record of a successfully providing behavioral services?

Behavior analysis has been around for many years. When evaluating a program, look for a longstanding commitment to ABA as an indicator of philosophy and capability.

Which senior-level professionals should be involved in guiding treatment planning and implementation?

Treatment decisions should ultimately be developed and reviewed by individuals with sufficient licensure and/or credentialing. At a minimum, these professionals should hold a Master’s degree and should be a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). The treatment of individuals with ASD is complicated. Often, expert doctoral-level clinical staff is required to enhance treatment effectiveness. Families and schools should work to ensure senior-level input to treatment.

What is BCBA?

Over the past several years, parents and educators have become familiar with the term Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). The Behavior Analyst Certification Board, Inc. (BACB) oversees the review of applications and the examination of candidates seeking to become board certified. To earn a BCBA, the highest certification conferred by the BACB, a candidate must have earned a masters degree, completed appropriate course work in ABA, obtained supervised experience, and passed an examination.

What is BCABA?

BCABA (Board Certified Associate Behavior Analyst) certification is given to individuals who have passed a prescribed sequence of courses, obtained appropriate supervision, and passed an examination. It is a less rigorous credential, and the technical skills required of the associate are less than those required for BCBA certification. It is important to note that many agencies may use the term “board certified” to refer to both BCBA and BCABA recipients. While certification indicated special competency, the two certifications are for individuals of different levels of accomplishment. We would urge parents and agencies to understand these capability levels and that not all board certifications indicate the same competencies or level of independence of the practitioner.

What is a Registered Behavior Technician™ (RBT)?

The Registered Behavior Technician™ (RBT) is a paraprofessional who practices under the close, ongoing supervision of a BCBA, BCaBA, or FL-CBA. The RBT is primarily responsible for the direct implementation of behavior-analytic services. The RBT does not design intervention or assessment plans. It is the responsibility of the RBT supervisor to determine which tasks an RBT may perform as a function of his or her training, experience, and competence. The BACB certificant supervising the RBT is responsible for the work performed by the RBT on the cases they are overseeing.