therapist_2Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) is a branch of science concerned with the application of basic principles of behaviour and learning to solve socially important problems and teach functional life skills. It is evidence-based and backed by nearly 50 years of proven results. 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.

In Australia ABA is one of the most commonly used early interventions for children with autism. 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 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 which 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 aide 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.


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.