What is ABA

Applied Behavior Analysis: Everything You Need to Know

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) encompasses evidence-based methods to help develop meaningful behavior change. By promoting skill acquisition and developing new, functional skills, ABA therapy aims to improve adaptability across several domains, including social interactions, communication, and daily functioning.

The methodology behind ABA emphasizes the understanding and modification of behavior within environmental contexts to encourage positive changes.


Applied Behavior Analysis definition

Understanding Behavior in ABA’s Context

In ABA, behavior refers to observable actions, movements, or abilities and non-observable concepts such as feelings, thinking, remembering, and emotional responses. This approach is grounded in the principle that the environment influences behavior and that understanding the motivation behind actions (the “function” of the behavior) is key to effective intervention. A

BA therapy targets these behaviors by identifying and modifying the antecedents (circumstances existing before the behavior) and consequences that influence them, utilizing reinforcement to encourage desirable outcomes.

Using Reinforcement Strategies and their Role in ABA

Reinforcement is a central concept in ABA therapy, used to increase the likelihood of a desired behavior reoccurring. Reinforcement involves adding desirable stimuli or removing aversive stimuli following a behavior to increase the chance of it occurring again. Reinforcement strategies can be adjusted to support acquisition of new skills and maintenance of learned behaviors over time.

Selecting the most appropriate reinforcers requires considering factors such as the reinforcer’s value, frequency, amount, and variety. By carefully choosing and varying reinforcers, therapists can ensure that interventions remain effective and engaging for the individual. Preference assessments are used to identify effective reinforcers for each individual, ensuring that our therapy is responsive to their needs.

Discrete Trial Training (DTT)

Discrete Trial Training (DTT) is a structured teaching method within ABA therapy that allows for detailed data collection and individualized learning experiences. During DTT sessions, therapists work one-on-one with a child, using specific materials to target defined objectives. Success in these tasks is rewarded with positive reinforcement and supplemented with rapport building, increased engagement, and eventual skill acquisition.

The structured nature of DTT, with its emphasis on repetition and clear reinforcement, makes it an effective tool for teaching new skills. At Illinois Autism Center, we often times teach fundamental skills to individuals using a DTT model in the clinic.

Natural Environment Training (NET)

Natural Environment Training (NET) is a complementary approach to DTT that emphasizes learning within natural, everyday contexts. Unlike the structured environment of DTT, NET focuses on teaching skills through play and daily activities, making it a dynamic and flexible form of learning.

This method encourages the generalization of skills to various settings, enhancing the learner’s ability to apply what they have learned in real-world situations. NET is particularly beneficial for integrating learned skills into practical use, offering a less structured but equally valuable learning experience.

At Illinois Autism Center, we often times generalize skills to many different environments using an NET model in the community.

Distinguishing Between DTT and NET

While DTT provides a controlled setting for skill acquisition, NET offers opportunities for applying these skills in more naturalistic environments. The difference lies in their application: DTT is highly structured and often conducted in therapy settings. NET is implemented in everyday situations, from the home to community locations like stores or parks. Both methods are integral to a comprehensive ABA program, each serving unique roles in the learning process.

By addressing behavior through a comprehensive, personalized approach, ABA therapy through the Illinois Autism Center promotes lasting skill development and greater adaptability.

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