What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)?

What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)?

Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) is a type of therapy that focuses on developing social, communication and learning skills.

This type of therapy is an ideal treatment for boys and girls diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other evolutionary conditions.

ABA therapists and behavior analysts also use ABA for the treatment of other conditions. These conditions may include:

  • substance abuse
  • dementia
  • cognitive impairment after brain injury
  • eating disorders
  • anxiety disorders (such as panic attacks, phobias, etc.)
  • anger control problems
  • borderline disorder personality
  • ADHD
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Applied Behavioral Analysis is a type of treatment that involves the application of behavioral principles.

An ABA therapist obtains such principles through experimental behavioral analysis.

Mots particularly, ABA focuses on the principles of classical and operant conditioning.

These principles establish that the desired behaviors can be trained through a program of rewards and consequences.

One of the characteristics of this type of treatment is that it aims to achieve specific and measurable goals.

Because it specializes in early intervention in autism, it became a fundamental treatment therapy for autism spectrum disorder.

Applied Behavioral Analysis: ABA Characteristics

Applied Behavioral Analysis: ABA therapy group

According to Baer, ​​Wolf, and Risley (1968), ABA has seven characteristics:


It focuses on the social significance of the behavior under study.

Applied or Pragmatic

It is pragmatic in the sense that it is possible to involve the individual in effective action. For this, it is necessary that the ABA therapist measures the required action in an objective manner.


This type of therapy requires a thorough and detailed analysis by the behavioral analyst.

Thus, the analyst can understand and manipulate the events that control the target behavior.

Behavior analysis is successful when the analyst understands and can manipulate the events that control a target behavior.

Attain ABA is very concerned about ethical issues when dealing with persons with autism, therefore we have a methodology in place.

There are two methods that allow to obtain these objectives without falling into ethical failures.

Reversal Design

The first method is reversal design. In this method, the experimenter first measures a baseline of the target behavior.

After this baseline measurement, the clinician introduces the intervention (still measuring the behavior, but now intervened).

Finally, the ABA therapist withdraws the intervention (or reduces it).

At this stage, the clinician observes whether the changes in behavior are concomitant or not to the intervention.

Multiple Baseline Design

The second of the methods is the multiple baseline design.

Therapists use this method when they consider a change in the target behavior is irreversible. Due to this, it’s not possible to use reversal design.

Here, the researcher measures several behaviors simultaneously and applies the intervention at each baseline.

Board certified behavior analysts conducts a behavioral assessment of such measurements.

However, the measurements take place one at a time, at different times.

The effectiveness of the intervention is evidenced if the behavior is modified only when it is specifically intervened and not at another time.


ABA therapy is technological. And it is so, because the description of the therapy must be clear and detailed.

This way, therapists can replicate the therapy.

Conceptually Systematic

When we say ABA is conceptually systematic, it means that this behavioral analysis should produce a list of effective interventions.

Also, this interventions must use the rigorous technical terminology of behavioral theories.

ABA is Effective

Applied Behavioral Analysis finds its support in analytical methods. Therefore, it must be effective. Otherwise, we must say that the analysis failed.


The behavioral results of ABA therapy should be generalizable. This means such results should be able to function in different contexts and environments.

These results must apply to more than one specific behavior, and they must have long-term effects.

Other ABA resources

What is ABA by BehaviorBabe.com

What is ABA by iloveaba.com

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