therapist_2Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is a therapeutic intervention. Therapeutic means a way of treating or responding to a particular disease or condition. ABA as therapeutic intervention makes meaningful changes in peoples lives through the use of procedures that have been demonstrated to work (Buchanan & Weiss 2010). It is commonly used as an early intervention methodology to help children learn how to learn. ABA is a based upon the foundations and principles of behaviourism. Its roots can be traced back to psychologists like Ivan Pavlov in the late 19th century, and John B. Watson and B. F. Skinner in the mid-20th century.

As an autism-specific therapy, ABA was originally developed by Ole Ivar Lovaas, a Norwegian-America. Drawing on behaviourist principles, Lovaas developed a model and practice which showed that the behaviour of children with autism could be modified.

As a type of behavioural therapy ABA initially focuses on discrete trials: brief periods of one-on-one instruction, during which a teacher cues a behaviour, prompts the appropriate response, and provides reinforcement to the child. Originally known as behaviour modification, ABA is now used worldwide and five decades of clinical and academic research support its practice. Many hundreds of research papers have been published on ABA for autism. This large body of knowledge has added positively to the theory and practice of ABA.

As an early intervention treatment for autism, ABA is generally a 1:1 intervention. It can be done in two ways: in the family home (home-based ABA), or in a specially designated centre (centre-based ABA). For some children, a mix of both home-based and centre-based ABA may be chosen. Some Service Providers may also provide group-based ABA. This form of therapy is often used to enhance a childs social and relationship skills, and is generally an adjunct to 1:1 intervention.

An ABA program is an instructional curriculum tailored specifically to meet the development and learning needs of your child. While 20 hours of intervention is commonly cited as the minimum number of required hours, the actual hours of intervention per week that each child receives is directly related to the childs needs and level of functioning.

autismlifespanWhile you’ll most often hear of ABA as an early intervention method, it’s a therapy that has a whole of life application. It can be used to transition children to school, through puberty, and into university and the workforce. Indicatively, some schools will allow families to have an ABA therapist in the classroom, or as an aid in the playground. The fact that ABA can be applied as a whole of life tool is one of the reasons for its success and longevity.

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If you are interested in knowing more about implementing an ABA program for your child, we suggest you download our Parent Information Kit. Similar information kits are available to guide educators, GPs or those wishing to become an ABA therapist.