What is Applied Behaviour Analysis?
Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is a field of psychology that focuses on applying learning theories to different people and situations. One specific application of these techniques is early, intensive, behavioural intervention (EIBI) for children with autism.
In Australia, we use the Early Intervention for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Guidelines for Good Practice (Roberts & Prior, 2012) as a way of evaluating different treatment options. Many different interventions were examined in this review article, and Applied Behaviour Analysis was the only intervention to receive the highest rating of having “Effective Based on Established Research Evidence”
Three decades of research have demonstrated the effectiveness of ABA principles for children with autism. Teaching techniques based on ABA have been shown to significantly improve the abilities of children with autism to learn and develop a range of new skills. Two seminal studies by Lovaas (1987), and McEachin, Smith and Lovaas (1993), have proven the efficacy of ABA. Additionally, many studies have been undertaken since this time, which replicate these findings and provide additional support for the techniques.
The techniques of ABA are grounded in science. Some of the hallmarks of ABA include:
- Breaking complex tasks into smaller tasks that can be taught more easily
- Providing repeated opportunities to learn and master new skills
- Using reinforcement procedures to assist in the acquisition of new skills
- Understanding the functions of behaviours (e.g. communication, attention seeking, avoidance, etc.) and developing programs to meet the child’s needs
- Making objective, data driven decisions to guide our evaluations of treatment progress
- Utilising effective teaching techniques, such as discrete trial teaching (DTT)
Our Approach to ABA
Autism Partnership’s approach differs in many fundamental ways from those who have a more rigid application of ABA. Some of the hallmarks of our approach include:
- We use a range of ABA techniques, not solely one rigid style
- We emphasise the positive – our approach is all about finding the things the child does well, and helping them to do it more often
- We teach each child to “learn how to learn” so they can get along in everyday life
- Therapy is a creative process and is implemented with structured flexibility, capitalising on the resources available for each individual child
- While we have found certain teaching techniques to be consistently effective, we also recognise that each person working with a child has their own style and unique contribution to make to the educational treatment process