What is ABA?


Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is an approach to changing socially significant behavior using the principles of learning and is a prominent treatment for individuals with autism and intellectual disabilities. The field of ABA is backed by over 50 years of clinical research published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals.

ABA treatment is a systematic approach to assessing and treating behavior deficits and includes both the reduction of challenging behavior and the increase of appropriate behavior. When a behavior treatment program is not effective, or is not producing the intended results, we will change certain aspects of the program to isolate variables that are preventing progress. When progress is made, we will work to generalize contrived learning scenarios to more realistic situations so that services can be faded to less-restrictive levels. It is not a goal of ABA therapy to continue working with an individual for long periods of time where no progress can be made; however, it is best practice to assess progress on a regular basis and to make necessary revisions to treatment plans that will serve to increase the achievement of behavioral goals. This is not to say that some clients do not receive services for longer periods of time. If services are clinically justified, and they are proven to be effective, services may continue for as long as those two factors are satisfied.

What will services look like?

All treatment programs are individualized for the client, so services may vary along many parameters. Typically, during the behavior assessment phase, the behavior analyst makes several visits to observe the individual, collect data, and review any necessary documentation. ABA therapy sessions can vary in length, but on average, last for 1-2 hours each.

Consultative services usually involve a once-weekly observation session, and behavior analysts will build in time to discuss behavioral progress with caregivers while observing the implementation of the behavior plan and observing the client’s response to treatment. Some clients may receive more intensive services, including multi-day schedules, based on their clinical needs.

Typical ABA sessions will occur in the environment where problem behaviors are most likely to occur, which is where the services will presumably be the most effective. For skill acquisition cases, services will be conducted in more structured environments where programs can be implemented with as little disruption as possible.

Behavior analysts may sometimes consult with an individual’s medication manager, which may be a psychiatrist or a nurse practitioner, on an as needed basis. Behavior analysts are in a unique position to help evaluate the effects of behavior-altering medications because data on the behaviors of note are being collected before, during, and after possible changes to the medication regimens.

We create flexible schedules that fit the needs of both the client and the behavior analyst. Of course, we recognize that emergencies and last-minute changes may be made sometimes, and we hope to reschedule missed visits in an appropriate and timely manner.