The possibilities of treatment are extremely overwhelming to parents who have just been told that their child is diagnosed with an ASD. Early intervention, ABA, speech, OT, PT, and countless other programs exist to aid in the treatment of this rapidly growing disorder, which affects an individuals ability to communicate, socialize, and try new things. The magnitude of treatment options that all seem to conflict and state that "this therapy will help!" can be extremely challenging. In order to make a good decision, a good first step is to determine which treatments show scientific evidence of being effective. Documents such as the "National Standards Report" by the National Autism Center (2009) is helpful to classify established, emerging, unestablished and harmful treatments for autism.
Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, is a science that uses the principles of learning theory to produce meaningful and positive changes in human behavior. ABA is widely recognized as a safe and effective treatment for any individual, in fact, you use the principles of ABA without even realizing it! When applied properly, these principles can be used to change the way people learn and behave. Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA's) use the principles of ABA to design individualized behavior intervention plans and programs to teach alternative behaviors to those currently in your child's repertoire, for behaviors that are considered "socially significant". Read on to learn more about ABA and why it is so awesome!
ABA is a relatively new field, though B.F. Skinner first published books about what we know as behaviorism and operant behavior in 1938. However, it was not until the year 1968 that contemporary applied behavior analysis began, which is when the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis was started and an article titled "Some Current Dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis" was written by three brilliant men- Donald Baer, Montrose Wolf, and Todd Risley. This article remains the standard description of ABA, and the authors describe and define seven characteristics of ABA from which practitioners have built our foundation (Baer, Wolf, & Risley, 1968).
The beauty of applied behavior analysis is that we thoroughly understand how behavior works and how individuals learn- through operant conditioning: the antecedents, behavior, and consequences. CORE ABA is able to look at the behavior in the natural environment, and assess the contingencies that are currently in place by conducting a descriptive assessment. Then, we change those contingencies by adjusting the antecedents and consequences, and by teaching new behaviors to take the place of the old. It is a truly a beautiful science to see work, and it works for everyone. It may take a lot of time and effort, but we strive to make changes in the desired direction.