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Applied Behavior Analysis

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a natural science that evaluates behavior-environment relations that are socially significant. Practitioners of ABA are board certified or licensed professionals who observe, measure and change behaviors that are socially significant and sensitive to the rules of the local community. Evidence-based methods are utilized, behavior data is collected and used as a tool for decision making, and each behavior-change strategy applied is monitored closely for effectiveness. When provided, ABA procedures must be explicitly defined and provided consistently to enable meaningful behavior change to occur reliably. In order to be effective, these meaningful behavior changes must occur in various locations – not just in a training setting, such as a classroom, therapy space, or single-setting location. Generalization of those behavior changes is as important as the behaviors themselves and must be actively planned for when designing effective ABA programs.

Some of the basic procedures used in ABA learning programs include shaping, prompting, differential reinforcement, errorless learning, extinction, and generalization. These programs may be adjusted based on the techniques used to “fit the individual’s learning needs” and response to intervention. There is no standard “cut and paste” ABA program. This could be dangerous, as we have learned from decades of field development, such as the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis.

ABA is defined by seven interconnected dimensions that define its foundation as a natural science (Baer, D.M., Wolf, M.M., & Risley, T.R., 1968, Some current dimensions of applied behavior analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1, 91-97).

Seven Dimensions of ABA

  • Generalization – Applied interventions are designed from the outset to operate in new environments and continue after the formal treatments have ended.
  • Effective – Applied interventions produce strong, socially important effects
  • Technological – Applied interventions are described well enough that they can be implemented by anyone with training and resources.
  • Applied – Applied interventions deal with problems of demonstrated social importance
  • Conceptually Systematic – Applied interventions arise from a specific and identifiable theoretical base rather than being a set of packages or tricks
  • Analytic – Applied interventions require an objective demonstration that the procedures caused the effect
  • Behavioral – Applied interventions deal with measurable behavior (or reports if they can be validated)

An Evidenced-based ABA Program for Individuals is an ABA Program if These Elements are Evident:

  • It utilizes principles consistent with Applied Behavior Analysis
  • The seven dimensions of ABA are adhered to explicitly within the services provided
  • Behavior data is collected frequently on operationally defined behaviors and goals
  • Data is used as the primary tool for making any programmatic changes
  • Data is visually inspected frequently before any changes are made to the program
  • ABA programming is defined explicitly (step-by-step) and trained face-to-face (1:1) with each trainee
  • Its implementation is supervised by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst

Principles & Procedures Consistent with ABA Learning Programs

  • Shaping – The method of reinforcing successive approximations in order to teach a behavior
  • Prompting
  • Differential Reinforcement
  • Errorless Learning
  • Extinction
  • Generalization
  • Verbal Behavior