Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)Photo by Caleb Woods

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), formerly known as behavioral engineering, is a scientific approach to behavior modification. ABA is widely used for teaching behaviors to children with Autism who may not naturally pick up on them without guidance. ABA is also a common approach to help adults and children who have developmental disorders, brain injuries, or for those who present with various behavioral or social disorders. ABA is one of the most common and effective evidence-based methods used today.


What is Applied Behavior Analysis in Simple Terms? 

Applied Behavior Analysis is an effective method that therapists use to study and modify behavior. ABA has been tested and proven effective for children and adults with Autism and other developmental disorders. The Applied Behavior Analysis definition psychology varies, but treatment is consistent. Therapists evaluate and implement environmental modification to produce socially significant improvements in human behavior. ABA includes observation, measurement, and functional analysis of the patient’s relation between their environment and behavior. ABA then uses stimuli and consequences based on the findings of the analysis to produce practical change.


What Are the 7 Principles of ABA?

ABA uses seven dimensions of interventions that are supported by research to ensure each intervention is effective and socially significant to the individual. Those interventions are then closely monitored by a therapist and if necessary, modified, to ensure consistent progress.


The Seven Core Dimensions of ABA Include:

  • Behavioral: To define a behavior it must be significant enough to recognize it. A therapist can help define a behavior which then allows them to monitor it and apply interventions to help modify it. Defining a behavior allows therapists to collect data related to the behavior and monitor results of the interventions.
  • Generality: A behavior is said to have generality when the taught behavior spans across multiple settings, multiple people, and multiple incidents. What good is a taught behavior if it’s only applied once and then never again? Generality is when the patient can take what they have learned and apply it in other contexts outside of the training environment in multiple scenarios.
  • Applied: A behavior change is considered applied when it improves the every-day interactions and life of a patient and the life of those closest to the patient such as parents, siblings, and peers.
  • Technological: This dimension is like a recipe. All the steps and procedures are spelled out clearly and written down for the patient and his or her family so ABA techniques can be implemented practically at home.
  • Effective: Interventions are considered effective when they produce a practical change. If the intervention is applied and doesn’t work or produce a sizeable change in the outcome of a scenario, then it’s not effective and should be evaluated and modified to produce a more effective result.
  • Analytical: A therapist can analyze data and make informed decisions. They can take this data and show when a variable is applied, a certain behavior is produced. They can also show when that variable is removed, the behavior changes.
  • Conceptually Systematic: ABA is a disciplined technique. Simply providing a consequence to a behavior is not the same thing as a principle of behavior. A therapist must measure a result or change in behavior in order to make statements regarding principles. Interventions are consistent with the principles demonstrated in the literature and the research about ABA, and therapists mustn’t take shortcuts.


Applied Behavior Analysis Techniques

Therapists and other healthcare practitioners who apply the ABA approach may utilize various techniques to implement the seven dimensions. These techniques may be changed or altered depending on whether it’s effective in modifying a patient’s behavior. It’s important to keep in mind that everyone is different and what may be an effective technique for one person, may not work for another person.


Some Examples of ABA Techniques Include: 

  • Positive reinforcement or rewards
  • Negative reinforcement or punishments
  • Verbal cues to encourage certain behavior
  • Task analysis – this is a model used to help therapists examine a patient. The patient is given a task to complete and the therapist monitors how the patient completes that task.
  • Behavior contracts – ABA sometimes uses contracts to help children learn appropriate behaviors. A therapist will likely list the positive behaviors they want to see the child complete and then give them a set of rewards they can earn if completed.
  • Video modeling – Children often learn through visual prompts. Video modeling is when a therapist uses a video to show a patient various circumstances or scenarios and then discusses the behaviors seen on the video with the child.
  • Pivotal response treatment – pivotal response treatment is a play-based therapy that targets reinforcing development in language and social behaviors.
  • Functional communication training – this type of training aims to stop children from having tantrums by teaching them to speak or gesture their feelings instead.


Children with Autism engage with their world differently. To make the greatest progress, they need frequent learning interactions that aren’t always available in a traditional environment. Using the ABA method of studying and modifying behavior through various techniques can help a child with Autism, or other behavioral or developmental issues, succeed in social situations.


Article written by:

Elevation Autism and Learning Center
18 Cumming St
Alpharetta, GA 30009
(404) 474-0040