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Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)


Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is designed to help children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) develop social and emotional skills. ABA applies the psychological principles of learning theory—the cognitive, emotional and environmental influences on how individuals acquire and retain knowledge and skills—in a systematic way to modify behavior. 

ABA’s goal is for children with ASD to work one-on-one with a therapist to learn desired behaviors that better prepare them for social situations at school, at events and with family. When beginning, the therapist works with the family to establish a treatment plan with benchmarks for behavior. Over time, as the child progresses or regresses, new goals are set. 

ABA therapy helps children on the autism spectrum by:

      • Increasing their social abilities, like completing tasks, communicating and learning new skills
      • Implementing maintenance behaviors, like self-control and self-regulation
      • Teaching them to transfer learned behaviors to new environments
      • Modifying the learning environment to challenge them in certain scenarios
      • Reducing negative behaviors, like self-harm

ABA helps children adapt to situations they may not understand through:

Positive reinforcement. Over time, ABA helps to instill desired behaviors by rewarding a child after completing a task correctly or reaching a goal behavior. Rewarding something of personal value following a behavior makes it more likely the child repeats the behavior. 

Behavior and consequence. As good behaviors are rewarded, negative behaviors are discouraged. ABA helps the child make the connection between what happens before and after a behavior. For example:

    • A teacher asks a student to put away toys. If the child begins cleaning up, the teacher rewards the behavior (positive consequence). 
    • If the child yells, throws a tantrum or refuses, there is no reward (negative consequence)—at leastuntil the child indicates a willingness to cooperate.

Over time, the child makes connections between what is and is not socially acceptable, with desired behaviors following the child into the real world. Adapted forms of ABA therapy can also be helpful for adults with ASD and other behavioral disorders.

Benefits of applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy

Personalized plan. ABA sets individual goals based on what the child struggles with the most, as well as any daily needs that arise. 

Broad application. ABA can be helpful with many conditions in addition to ASD, including:

Proven results. Studies show children receiving long-term ABA therapy—25-40 hours per week for 1-3 years—have good outcomes, showing gains in:

      • Language development
      • Intellectual abilities
      • Skills for day-to-day living
      • Social abilities

Learn more about Behavior Therapies offered at CFI…



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