Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is the science of applying experimentally derived principles of behavior to improve socially significant behavior. ABA takes what we know about behavior and uses it to bring about positive change (Applied). Behaviors are defined in observable and measurable terms in order to assess change over time and define progress (Behavior). The behavior is analyzed within the environment to determine what factors are influencing the behavior (Analysis).
ABA is recommended and supported by the U.S. Surgeon General, the National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Research Council, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Neurology, NY State Dept of Health and many other national medical policy organizations and national professional medical associations.
Behavior Analysis can be called 'learning' theory- Understanding what does or does not lead to learning, maintaining and using skills. ABA is setting up the environment to enable children to learn. With the use of ABA, we attempt to teach the prerequisites to make it possible for a child to learn 'naturally.'
Behavior is anything and everything we do including speaking, having feelings, playing and being social.
We must be able to show a functional relation between the treatment (manipulated events) and the behavior of interest. To show a functional relation, you must be able to control the occurrence and nonoccurrence of the behavior.
All behaviors and procedures are identified and defined so that everyone is describing the same behaviors.
Improvement must be shown to a practical degree.
Gains made and skills learned must be demonstrated with different people, in different settings and for substantial periods of time before a skill is considered "mastered."
ABA uses antecedent stimuli (events occurring before a behavior) and consequences based on the findings of descriptive and functional analysis, to produce practical change.
ABA is based on the belief that an individual's behavior is determined by past and current environmental events in conjunction with organic variables such as genetics.
ABA focuses on explaining behavior in terms of external events that can be manipulated rather than internal constructs that are beyond our control.
Typically developing children learn without intervention (the environment they are born into provides the right conditions to learn language, play, and social skills). After a few years, however, this breaks down, and we no longer learn everything 'naturally'--it takes a very structured environment, for example, for most of us to learn to do math, read, and write.
Kids with autism learn much less from their environments and therefore need the more structured and organized environment to learn the things that typical children learn naturally.