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What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)?

ABA is a therapy based on the science of learning and behavior. Behavior analysis helps us to understand how behavior is affected by the environment, and thus, how learning occurs. ABA applies our understanding of how behavior works to improve socially important behaviors. The goal is to increase behaviors that are helpful and decrease behaviors that are harmful or affect desired learning.

The methods of ABA have been used and studied for decades. They have helped many kinds of learners gain different skills – from healthier lifestyles to learning a new language. Therapists have used ABA to help children with autism spectrum disorder and related developmental disorders since the 1960s.

What Does ABA Therapy Involve?

ABA therapy can help:

  • Increase language and communication skills

  • Improve attention, focus, and academics

  • Teach social, self-care, and life skills and improve health behaviors 

  • Decrease problem behaviors


Effective ABA programs are not "one size fits all." Each program is based on the results of individualized assessment and written to meet the needs of the individual learner. The goal of any ABA program is to help each individual work on skills that will help them become more independent and successful in the short term as well as in the future.

ABA Techniques and Philosophy

Therapists use a variety of ABA procedures. Some are directed by the therapist and others are directed by the learner.

Parents and other caregivers receive training so they can support learning and behavior change throughout the day.

The learner will have many opportunities to learn and practice skills each day. This can happen in both planned and naturally occurring situations. For instance, someone learning to greet others by saying "hello" may get the chance to practice this skill in the classroom with their teacher (planned) and on the playground at recess (naturally occurring). The learner receives an abundance of positive reinforcement for demonstrating useful skills and socially appropriate behaviors. The emphasis is on positive social interactions and enjoyable learning.

The learner receives no reinforcement for behaviors that pose harm or prevent learning.

ABA is effective for people of all ages. It can be used from early childhood through adulthood.

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