Autism and ABA

What is ABA?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a field that focuses on the application of evidence based behavioral principles, through the design, implementation, and evaluation of programs targeting the modification of environmental variables, to improve behaviors that are of social significance. The fact that ABA principles are evidence based cannot be stressed enough. Researchers and practitioners have extensively documented the effectiveness of ABA methods for reducing problem behaviors and increasing critical skills since the 1960's when the field of ABA was first formally defined. All ABA practitioners must remain up to date on the current research as published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at professional conferences and ensure the methods they employ are kept current with the findings of the literature.

Hope is in the AIR

The field of Applied Behavior Analysis was originally defined within a paper published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis in 1968 by Baer, Wolf, and Risley (Risley et al., 1968) discussed further in their 1987 paper (Risley et al., 1987). These papers developed the seven dimensions in which all practitioners of ABA must operate within. These dimensions are; applied, behavioral, analytic, technological, conceptually systematic, effective, and capable of generalized outcomes.

Applied Behavior Analysis is often misperceived as being equivalent to Discrete Trials Training or "Lovaas therapy". Although Discrete Trials Training is one component of ABA, other interventions also stem from this field. Verbal Behavior, Natural Environment Training, Functional Communication Training, and Generalization Training are other important methods of Applied Behavior Analysis. ABA programs focus on maladaptive behaviors and educational deficits in order to teach individuals appropriate alternative behaviors and improve academic, cognitive, social, play, communicative, gross/fine motor, and adaptive living skills. Early intensive ABA programs can entail up to 40 hours per week of 1:1 interventions, implemented by trained behavioral staff who are supervised by a case supervisor specialized in designing and implementing behavioral and educational treatment plans.

Hope is in the AIR

Research has demonstrated that children who receive 40 hours per week of early intensive behavioral treatment (ABA) have a better prognosis for being mainstreamed and achieving typical levels of functioning than those who do not (Lovaas, 1987; McEachin et al., 1993). As long ago as 1981, ABA was branded as the treatment of choice for children with autism (Marion K. DeMyer, J. Hingtgen and R. Jackson). A research analysis by Johnny Matson and his colleagues revealed that more than 550 studies published in scientific journals show the effectiveness of behavior analytic procedures with persons with autism (1996). Autism is just one of many areas in which ABA has been successful. It has been extensively researched with children and adults with other developmental disabilities and delays such as Mental Retardation, Cerebral Palsy, and ADHD. Studies have demonstrated that behavioral treatment is an effective mode of intervention for these disabilities as well.

AIR's program at a glance

Autism Interventions and Resources, Inc. provides supervision and implementation of individualized ABA programs for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental disabilities. The programs typically consist of 10 to 40 hours per week of behavioral intervention provided within the school, home, and community in order to ensure generalization across settings and people. Positive behavioral strategies are employed to effectively manage maladaptive behaviors and teach successful methods of communication and functioning. Specific methods of ABA used by Autism Interventions and Resources include, but are not limited to, Functional Assessment of Behaviors, Discrete Trials Training, Verbal Behavior, Social Skills Training, Functional Communication Training, Natural Environment Training, and Generalization Training.


Baer, D., Wolf, M., & Risley, R. (1968). Some current dimensions of applied behavior analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1, 91 - 97.

Baer, D., Wolf, M., & Risley, R. (1987). Some still-current dimensions of applied behavior analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 20, 313 - 327.

Lovaas, O. I. (1987). Behavioral treatment and normal educational and intellectual functioning in young autistic children. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55, 3-9.

McEachin, J. J., Smith, T., & Lovaas, O. I. (1993). Long-term outcome for children with autism who received early intensive behavioral treatment. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 97 (4), 359-372.