Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is widely accepted to be the most effective evidence-based treatment developed to date for children with autism. The structured teaching of functional skills (often called behaviour intervention) presently has the largest body of published research supporting its effectiveness.
ABA is the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree, and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behavior.
“Socially significant behaviors” include reading, academics, social skills, communication, and adaptive living skills. Adaptive living skills include gross and fine motor skills, eating and food preparation, toileting, dressing, personal self-care, domestic skills, time and punctuality, money and value, home and community orientation, and work skills.
ABA methods are used to support persons with autism in at least six ways:
- to increase desirable behaviors (eg reinforcement procedures increase on-task behavior, or social interactions);
- to teach new skills (eg, systematic instruction and reinforcement procedures teach functional life skills, communication skills, or social skills);
- to maintain behaviors (eg, teaching self control and self-monitoring procedures to maintain and generalize job-related social skills);
- to generalize or to transfer behavior from one situation or response to another (eg, from completing assignments in the resource room to performing as well in the mainstream classroom);
- to restrict or narrow conditions under which interfering behaviors occur (eg, modifying the learning environment); and
- to reduce interfering behaviors (eg, self injury or stereotypy).