What Is Applied Behaviour Analysis?

About ABA

Behaviour Analysis is simply the science of how behaviour works.
Applied Behaviour Analysis uses that science and creates programmes to make socially significant changes in peoples lives.

ABA is used in many settings from developmental delays through to the workplace. It is used for all behaviours, which means language, fine motor, gross motor, academic skills, and social skills just to name a few.

The effectiveness of ABA

Many decades of research have validated the efficacy of ABA. The Report of the MADSEC Autism Task Force (2000) provides a succinct description, put together by an independent body of experts. Over the past 30 years, several thousand published research studies have documented the effectiveness of ABA across a wide range of:

  • Populations, including children and adults with mental illness, developmental disabilities and learning disorders.
  • Interventionists, including parents, teachers and other professionals.
  • Settings, including schools, homes, institutions, group homes, hospitals and in the work place.
  • Behaviours, including language (which is a learned behaviour), social skills, academic performance and the acquisition of appropriate and healthy behaviour patterns.

Treatment approaches grounded in ABA are now considered to be at the forefront of therapeutic and educational interventions for children with autism. The large amount of scientific evidence supporting ABA treatments for children with autism have led a number of other independent bodies to endorse the effectiveness of ABA, including the U.S. Surgeon General, the New York State Department of Health, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Pediatrics (see reference list below for sources).

Applying ABA

Applied behaviour analysis is the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of behaviour analysis to improve socially significant behaviours to a meaningful degree, and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behaviour (Baer, Wolf & Risley, 1968; Sulzer-Azaroff & Mayer, 1991). “Socially significant behaviours” include any behaviour that is important for that individual, family and situation. Each family has different needs and priorities, which ABA can address to satisfy your unique situation.

ABA is an objective discipline. ABA focuses on the reliable measurement and objective evaluation of observable behaviour. Reliable measurement requires that behaviours are defined objectively. Vague terms such as anger, depression, aggression or tantrums are redefined in observable and quantifiable terms, so their frequency, duration or other measurable properties can be directly recorded (Sulzer-Azaroff & Mayer, 1991). For example, “Initiating social interaction with peers” might be defined as: “looking at classmate and saying, “Hello.”

ABA interventions require a demonstration of the events that are responsible for the occurrence, or non-occurrence, of behaviour. ABA uses methods of analysis that yield convincing, reproducible, and conceptually sensible demonstrations of how to accomplish specific behaviour changes (Baer & Risley, 1987). Moreover, these behaviours are evaluated within relevant settings such as schools, homes and the community.

Did you know?

ABA is not currently practiced on the NHS in spite that is now widely recognised as the most effective way of teaching children with autism and other developmental delays, as well as children with behavioural problems or language and communication difficulties. However, 2012 is seeing some NHS Institutions and government organisations recruit behaviour analysts.

The next steps...

Contact us today to find out how NETwork is helping families and schools like yours. 
For more information and resources please get in touch with us.

"Our son was diagnosed with Asperger’s aged 7; NETwork Interventions spent a day observing him at school and at home and quickly identified the skills he was lacking – skill deficits that we - and others working with our son - had not picked up on. NETwork Interventions trained us to help our son learn those missing skills. The results have been remarkable – he no longer cries about going to school, his concentration and behaviour are much better and he is far less likely to alienate others by the things he says. Thank you."
Parent in Surrey

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C & C, Ottawa

"We started an informal intervention for our 18 month old last week, Zack. Lu came for an observation around a month ago. This was followed by Shelley spending two days with our family last week. Our 18 month old had three signs and plenty of motivation and social intent, but no requests for items or people. He had a few unintelligible requests for activities and just sounds or unintelligible words for when he labels things. We have done our research. As professionals in the field of child development and with ASD and ADHD in our extended family, we know that it is better to act earlier rather than later. We didn’t want a heavy or burdensome programme for reasons of time, of finance and also of emotion. Admitting there may be a problem is actually very difficult. Last week was extremely draining emotionally in this capacity. We know that prevention is necessary as there is no firm cure and we can’t take the risk of not intervening and waiting another six months as our GP and Paediatrician told us. Shelley came to the farm with us, came swimming with us, to the park and to granny and grandpa’s home with us. She did day to day life with us such as bath time and bed time. The first day Shelley watched what life was like for me, balancing home, children, marriage and work. Life is hectic. The second day we swapped roles and she put recommendations in acting as I would and then supported me to implement it. She is coming back on Thursday to see how we are getting on and she is returning with a new schedule for me after going away to analyse it these last few days. We are absolutely thrilled with Zack’s progress already. His Gymboree teachers commented on his language ‘explosion’. His aunty, who does not know that we are running this intervention, commented on how much Zack is talking this week. I am confident that within a few months, Zack will not have a spiky developmental profile and it looks as though he will have even more skills than his peers at this rate. This is fun and I am so grateful to Shelley, Lu and Ruth who, together, have created the ‘perfect programme’ for us."
Luke, Louise, Lyndsay and Zack, Surrey, England

"This week I have been feeling very defeated with my son changing campuses at school. At the end of my call with Shelley I was filled with hope again. That is why I love our calls. Not simply because of the work with my son, but because Shelley always helps me to see a way forward. "
Gem, Brisbane

"I have had previous counselling for over two years but left because of no progress. I am finding the experience with Liz different in a very positive way. After just four sessions I am seeing great progress."
M, London

"The observation and assessment period that NETwork complete at the beginning is difficult to understand at the outset, but it turns out that it is an intricate process that [does] indeed find the issues to work on and subsequently address and resolve."
Mum, Quebec

"Dillan had significant behavioural issues and received a very late diagnosis of NVLD when he was 9 years old. This diagnosis did little to help our family. Louise quickly and efficiently set up a programme for our teenage son which rapidly identified his strengths and weaknesses. Shelley taught us and his teachers how to best address these, including language deficits which had previously remained unrecognised, Louise’s team worked within our budget, working hours and extensive travel commitments, working closely with school and our local authority to ensure everybody was on board and funding accessed. At times it felt as though Louise was coordinating a small army. Additional support of parent-counselling through Louise’s team proved invaluable, even though we were originally a little sceptical. It most likely made the difference between success and failure in our ability as parents to sustain a positive family unit whilst implementing the programme. We worked with NETwork Interventions for just under one year."
Dr Edwards, North London

"We would like to say a massive thank you for your hard work during the 2 day assessment. We are so grateful and highly impressed with your level of knowledge, confidence, professionalism as well as the kindness and respect shown to our family. Now, we really believe there is light at the end of the tunnel."
Monica, UK

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