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Applied Behavior Analysis: Definition and Practical Applications

Published September 14th, 2021 by NYTPS Inc

Have you ever praised a child for good behavior? Or have you used “First Dinner, Then Desert” as your own parenting technique?

If so, you can thank applied behavior analysis (ABA) for this well-known reinforcement strategy to strengthen good behavior. ABA combines behavior analysis and behaviorism to improve socially significant skills.

ABA is often used with those who experience Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). However, it is also used with non-autistic patients to see life improvements.

So, what does this all mean? And, why is it useful? Please keep reading to learn more about applied behavior analysis and its application.

What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)?

Applied behavior analysis is a combination with research-based interventions and practical applications. Professionals use ABA to help develop social and emotional skills. In ABA, practitioners apply the psychological principles of learning theory to modify behavior.

Behavior analysis helps us understand three main things. They are how behavior works, how the environment affects behavior, and how learning occurs.

ABA applies this understanding to real-world situations and their effect on learning or interaction. ABA therapists aim to increase helpful behaviors and decrease harmful behavior. The end goal is to teach replacement behavior or more functional communication.

Goals can include academic, communication, language, learning, leisure, motor, play, self-care, social, and self-care skills.

Even though ABA therapy has many techniques, they all focus on the antecedent (A), behavior (B), and consequence (C). As a result, the theory evolved to include three steps called the A-B-Cs.

An antecedent is what happens before the behavior. A consequence is what happens after the behavior. 

The A-B-Cs helps to understand why a behavior is occurring. In addition, it helps to see how other consequences may affect whether the behavior will happen again in the future.

ABA is an evidence-based practice treatment. The therapy has gone through scientific tests to show its effectiveness, quality, and usefulness. 

The History of ABA

So, where did applied behavior analysis come from? Well, ABA can be traced as far back as the 1890 Pavlovian dog study. But, by 1913, John B. Watson introduced behaviorism to the concept.

Watson argued that more than just the mind affects the way a person acts. Their environment has a significant impact on their behavior too.

In the 1920s, Burrhus Frederic Skinner continued to make developments in behavior analysis. He coined the term operant conditioning.

Operant condition is a method of learning that employs rewards and punishments for behavior.

It wasn't until the 1960s that the term applied behavior analysis emerged. The field was born at the University of Kansas among academics Donald Baer, Todd Risley, and Montrose Wolf. 

Practical Applications of ABA

Applied behavior analysis is most commonly used with children who have autism or other developmental disorders. These may include down syndrome, intellectual disability, or emotional disability.

Professionals also use ABA to help treat depression, severe anxiety, fears, phobias, anger management issues, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

There are many methods used to apply ABA. They all include some type of positive reinforcement to build behavior. These are the most common methods used today.

Discrete Trial Training (DTT)

The discrete trial training technique teaches a new behavior. Then, it breaks down the new behavior into a sequence or discrete trial.

The smaller behaviors are reinforced step-by-step to build up into the full desired behavior.

Natural Environment Training (NET)

The natural environment training technique uses reward systems that are already used in the person's life. Then, it matches them with desired behaviors. This, in return, creates a more natural response.

Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT)

The pivotal response treatment examines the natural reinforcements of motivations and responsiveness in someone. It is a more holistic approach that doesn't target specific behaviors.

Token Economies 

Token economies provide a systematic reinforcement through redeemable rewards to produce consistent behavior. 

The best example is loyalty programs. Collecting points for frequent purchases on a credit card is a perfect example of using token economics.

Benefits of ABA

Applied behavior analysis is a flexible treatment. Although the foundations remain the same, there is not one systematic approach to the therapy.

Professionals can adapt the therapy to each unique individual to meet their needs. They can conduct ABA sessions in different locations, such as at home or school. ABA can be taught one-on-one or in group sessions too.

In addition, ABA teaches useful skills for everyday life. It allows individuals to build skills that will allow them to be more independent and successful. 

Although it is used most with patients on the autism spectrum, the outcomes are beneficial to all different types of people.

ABA therapy has proven results. The effects are both short-term and long-term. Patients of ABA therapy will experience improved interaction and interest in other people. 

This means social abilities like communicating, learning new skills, and completing tasks will improve.

This can include tasks like cooking and doing chores. It also means having the ability to build vocational skills for future employment. Young patients will gain a stronger focus at school.

Patients will learn behaviors like self-regulation and self-control. At the same time, they will learn to reduce negative behaviors like self-harm. 

They will also learn how to transfer learned behaviors to new environments. 

Find ABA Services Today

Now you have a better understanding of what applied behavior analysis is and how it professionals use it. In addition, there are several benefits of this therapy for both autistic and non-autistic individuals.

If you seek ABA services, don't hesitate to contact us at New York Therapy Placement Services, Inc.

You can also speak with your primary care doctor first to receive a prescription for ABA therapy. Should your insurance require a referral, speak with your current doctor before reaching out to us.


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