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Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

Written by Olivia Cerf, sshowalter.

Effect of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) on Autism

ABA is a type of behavior program that can be used in school, in a therapy setting, and at home. There are a number of different kinds of ABA programs, such as discrete trial training (DTT). This is a structured method of teaching that involves breaking a lesson down into steps, providing prompts so that the child does the task, and having consequences for the child’s performance. For example, if a task is done as instructed, then a reward is given.

Other types of ABA programs include pivotal response training (PRT). This is a different approach that focuses on what motivates the child to learn. If the child chooses to play with a certain toy, then that choice can be used to teach a skill (like learning colors). PRT also involves reinforcing the child in "real" ways. If a child is learning how to tie his shoe, then the reward could be to play outside, instead of giving him candy as a reward.

Applied verbal behavior (VB) is another program, which involves helping the child gain verbal skills. The teacher breaks lessons down into small trials, gives prompts, and provides feedback to reinforce the desired behavior. The goal is to have the child use his verbal skills to communicate his needs.

Read more details about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

Research Evidence on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

A meta-analysis of 22 studies reported that ABA had been shown to have positive effects on symptoms of autism. The measures that these studies showed as improved by ABA treatment were

General IQ Language development Acquisition of daily living skills Adaptive behavior Nonverbal IQ Social functions

Children who undergo ABA intervention have a greater chance of integrating into school environments. However, studies on ABA show that its effects are stronger in clinic-based programs than in parent-managed ones.1


1Virues-Ortega, Javier. “Applied behavior analytic intervention for autism in early childhood: Meta-analysis, meta-regression and dose-response meta-analysis of multiple outcomes.” Clinical Psychology Review 30, (29 Jan. 2010): 387.

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