What is ABA?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the scientific study of behavior. ABA is based on a theory that behavior occurs when it is reinforced and does not occur in the absence of reinforcement. ABA carefully assesses how and why environmental events affect the behaviors of an individual. Assessments include contextual factors such as the setting and motivational variables. Antecedents (what happens before a behavior) and consequences (what happens immediately following the behavior) are carefully studied as well. Consequences that increase the likelihood of that behavior occurring again are termed “reinforcement” and consequences that decrease the likelihood of that behavior occurring again are termed “punishment”. Applied Verbal Behavior (AVB) uses the same science as Applied Behavior Analysis but focuses on language. Verbal Behavior is behavior and is learned the same way as any other behavior; through reinforcement and punishment. A set of new terms were coined to describe already existing behaviors. The 3 terms most associated with AVB are Mand (request) Tact (Label) and Echoic (Verbal Imitation).

What Teaching Methods Are Under The ABA Umbrella?
 
Discrete Trial Training (DTT)
is a highly structured and intense form of ABA and typically occurs at a table. Each teachable moment is planned, separate, and distinct. Each target is typically repeated in a trial of 10. DTT is beneficial for students that require more repetition. The sequenced form of instruction has 3 steps: 1.SD (instruction) 2. Response 3. Consequence. Generalization is difficult in DTT and must be planned.
 
EIC only uses DTT when absolutely necessary and moves onto NET when a target is mastered in order to generalize the concept or skill

Natural Environment Training (NET) is a more natural form of utilizing ABA and is conducted in the child’s typical environment. Everyday household objects and toys are used as teaching materials and the rewards for correct responses are natural. The teacher has a curriculum (list of targets to teach) in mind and makes it portable. The targets are inserted in activities, games and play. The child’s motivation and interests are a main factor in NET; most children do not recognize they are “working”. Generalization is built into this teaching strategy.
 
Pivotal Response Training (PRT) is another form of naturalistic ABA and is used to teach language, decrease disruptive/self-stimulatory behaviors, and increase social, communication, and academic skills by focusing on critical or pivotal behaviors that affect a wide range of behaviors. The primary pivotal behaviors are motivation and child's initiations of communications with others. The goal of PRT is to produce positive changes in the pivotal behaviors, leading to improvement in communication skills, play skills, social behaviors and the child's ability to monitor his own behavior. Motivational strategies include the variation of tasks, revisiting mastered tasks to ensure the child retains acquired skills, rewarding attempts, and the use of direct and natural reinforcement.

Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication – Handicapped Children (TEACCH) supports the notion that the environment should be adjusted for the child and not the other way around. TEACCH utilizes a variety of visual supports such as PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System), visual schedules, token boards, social stories and work systems to aide in learning and independence.

DIR /Floor Time Approach is a play-based technique which builds on children's own interests or obsessions to develop relationships and social/communication skills. It is based on the premise that the child can increase and build a larger circle of interaction with an adult who meets the child at his current developmental level and who builds on the child's particular strengths. The parent engages the child at a level the child currently enjoys, enters the child's activities, and follows the child's lead. From a mutually shared engagement, the parent is instructed how to move the child toward more increasingly complex interactions, a process known as “opening and closing circles of communication”. Methods such as playful obstruction (creating obstacles to induce troubleshooting) and playing “dumb” to elicit a response/ communicative attempt can be used to evoke these skills.

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