What is Applied Behaviour Analysis?
Given the recent increase in the prevalence and awareness of autism and other developmental disabilities, Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is becoming more common now than ever. It is often recommended by health care professionals and teachers as a treatment for a variety of behaviours. But what is ABA, and how can it help?
Applied Behaviour Analysis is a set of principles based on the science of behaviour. The term “behaviour” refers to all kinds of actions and skills, not just misbehavior. ABA can help increase functional skills or decrease problematic behaviours. Some examples of behaviours that ABA can help increase include, communication skills, social skills, academics, etc. ABA can help decrease behaviours such as aggression, property destruction, and self-injurious behaviour. Behaviours worked on in therapy are chosen for intervention based on their social significance. For example, aggression is often seen as a socially significant behaviour, because if a child is aggressive to his peers at school it will impact his peer relationships and affect his quality of life.
One of the most common principles of ABA used to change behaviour is positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement refers to presenting some sort of reward after a child performs a skill to increase the chances they will perform that behaviour again in the future. Other principles of ABA that you may hear about include: prompting, differential reinforcement, shaping, and chaining. ABA is highly individualized, which means a behaviour analyst will determine which principles are most appropriate to use with your child depending on their specific strengths and needs.
How can Applied Behaviour Analysis help?
Applied Behaviour Analysis is considered to be an evidence-based best practice by the American Psychological Association. This means that ABA has been tested scientifically to prove its quality and effectiveness as a treatment. In fact, if you decide to pursue ABA therapy for your child, your service provider will take data and analyze it frequently to determine that the strategies being used are effective. On-going data collection is an important part of any ABA treatment plan. ABA also tends to be very hands-on, so your service provider may ask you to take data, participate in the strategies, or even do them yourself. As a parent, you spend more time with your child than anyone, so when you are trained in the principles of ABA and use them on a daily basis, your child has a greater chance of success. A good behaviour analyst will always try to include a parent-training component in their treatment plan.
Applied Behaviour Analysis or ABA can help improve a variety of behaviours for children of different ages and diagnoses. If you would like to learn more, or set up a complementary consultation with a Behaviour Analyst please call 1 866-653-2397.
Emily Beresford has worked for several years in the field of Behavioural Therapy. She earned a Masters of Applied Disability Studies from Brock University in 2014, an undergrad in Psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University in 2008 and is currently working toward her Board Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA) designation.
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