Answers to Your Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Questions

“What is applied behavior analysis?” is the first question commonly asked by parents who receive it as a recommendation from their child’s pediatrician. The roots of ABA as a field date back to the 1960s. The fundamental idea is to take the rigorous scientific approach found in behavioral health laboratories and apply those principles to clinics treating real patients. While ABA is focused on any type of behavior and can be applied to any living organism, it is most often utilized as a treatment for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The goal of ABA is to determine why a behavior takes place and develop an intervention to change that behavior. The ideal outcome of a behavior intervention plan (BIP) is to promote desirable behaviors while discouraging unwanted behaviors.


Breaking Down the Term

Applied – In ABA, the focus is on changing behaviors that are socially significant.

Behavioral – ABA concentrates on behaviors that are observable and measurable.

Analysis – This seeks to identify the relationship between the behavior and the environment.

Consistent implementation of ABA is a crucial component to maximize effectiveness and progress. In order to achieve this, goals are clearly defined in observable and measurable terms.

Another essential aspect of ABA is continuous data collection, study, and evaluation of the intervention plan’s effects. Being able to track improvement and identify barriers to progress increases the likelihood for successful treatment.

Three-Term Contingency (The ABCs of Behavior)

The Three-Term Contingency is something that can be applied to any living thing, and is used to help identify the function, or why a specific behavior is occurring.

Antecedent – The environmental or stimulus trigger that happens prior to the behavior

Behavior – The behavior resulting from the antecedent

Consequence – The environmental response to the behavior (i.e. reinforcement, punishment)

This may look something like:

  1. Antecedent: The baby cries.
  2. Behavior: The parent picks up the baby and rocks him.
  3. Consequence: The baby stops crying.

In this example, the parent is reinforcing the baby’s cry by picking him up and rocking him. Through this instance and repeated exposure, the baby learns that crying will likely result in being rocked by its parent.

Utilizing the Three-Term Contingency enables practitioners to take a detailed, scientific approach to identifying specific triggers for a behavior and track the results. This will help determine why the consequence occurred or what the behavior was intended to accomplish.


The Benefits of Taking an ABA Approach to Behavioral Issues

ABA is focused on careful analysis and documentation, followed by a detailed intervention plan that also includes continued data collection and analysis. The additional data gathered as treatment progresses allows for assessment of the intervention’s effect on those behaviors and adjustments to behavioral treatment plans, ultimately improving outcomes.

Effective ABA intervention should lead to an increase in desired behaviors and a reduction in unwanted behaviors. Intervention plans should also include promotion of maintenance of new skills as well as generalization to the learner’s natural environment.


Learn More About ABA from Empower Behavioral Health

At Empower Behavioral Health, our mission is to give local families the ABA tools they need to help each learner reach their maximum potential. If you’re interested in learning more about ABA or would like to inquire about our services, please contact us online or call at 210-447-0039.

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