Applied Behavior Analysis and Children with Autism
By Alan Harchik, Ph.D., BCBA
behavior analysis (ABA) methodology is the application of basic
behavioral practices (positive reinforcement, teaching in small
steps, prompting, and repeated practice) to facilitate the development
of language, social interactions, and independent living skills.
It can also help reduce both everyday social problems and serious
the media and the Internet, parents often hear about many different
types of procedures to treat autism, such as special diets or programs
of sensory stimulation. Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence
to support the use of these procedures. ABA is the exception. Its
procedures are rooted in scientific research.
ABA includes ongoing collection of performance data to help guide
teachers in making decisions regarding how to best individualize
instruction for each unique child. Data collected and analyzed at
the May Institute support the findings of hundreds of other studies
that indicate ABA is the most effective method to teach children
and adolescents with autism, pervasive developmental disorder (PDD),
and other developmental disabilities. ABA practices have been endorsed
by the Surgeon General, the National Institutes of Health (NIH),
and the Association for Science in Autism Research.
principles of applied behavior analysis can be used to teach a variety
of skills and positive behaviors, including functional living skills,
language, reading, social skills, positive peer interactions, academic
engagement, and independent play skills. ABA methodology is also
effective in decreasing challenging behaviors such as noncompliance,
tantrums, bed-wetting, feeding problems, aggression, and self-injury.
can be effective in working with individuals of all ages; moreover,
research shows that skill development programs that are provided
to children at a young age can have very positive outcomes.
techniques can be used both in the home and at school. The first
step is to ensure that services are provided by qualified professionals,
ideally those with Ph.D. or Psy.D. licensure, board certification
by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), and a number
of years of supervised direct experience working with children.
professional should evaluate the child to identify his or her specific
needs for intervention and instruction. Next, goals and objectives
are chosen, and systematic instructional procedures are determined.
Therapists and other instructors are then taught the procedures
and a plan for ongoing monitoring is developed.
most attracts parents to an ABA program are its positive and reinforcing
tone, its strong focus on teaching new skills, the documentation
of progress in reports and charts, its foundation in research, and
the manner in which it is individualized for every child. Parents
who feel their children might be helped by ABA-based procedures
should visit local programs and talk with program administrators
and other parents. In addition, parents need to make their needs
known to the special education personnel in their local school districts.
Institute offers early intervention services, home-based and school
consultation, parent information, and federally funded research
and education programs. May operates schools for children and adolescents
with autism, Asperger's Syndrome, and other developmental disabilities
as well as community programs for adults in Chatham, Randolph, West
Springfield, and Woburn, Mass., and in Freeport, Maine. For more
information, contact May Institute at 800-778-7601 or www.mayinstitute.org
information presented on this site is intended solely as a general
educational aid, and is neither medical nor healthcare advice for
any individual problem, nor a substitute for medical or other professional
advice and services from a qualified healthcare provider familiar
with your unique circumstances. Always seek the advice of your physician
or other qualified healthcare professional regarding any medical
condition and before starting any new treatment.