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If you are the parent or a loved one of a child who has been diagnosed with autism or other developmental disability, you at one time probably experienced shock, surprise, grief, trepidation, uncertainty, confusion and perhaps even sadness.

At some point however, these emotions gave way to resolve. And with that resolve came the commitment to finding the very best therapy available for your child in an effort to give them the best possible opportunity at life.

During your search, you may have come across the term ABA, which is short for Applied Behaviour Analysis. Perhaps you discovered this term while reading through the Recommendations Section in a diagnostic or psychological report from an overseas service provider, recommending 30 hour of intensive ABA therapeutic interventions as an early intervention strategy.

In order to understand, why researchers and many reputable service providers support ABA as an intervention for youth with autism and other developmental disabilities, it is important to understand what ABA is.

ABA is the science of changing behaviour and is derived from a set of scientific principles. Science is a discipline that uses systematic approaches to investigate and understand the natural world. In the case of ABA, we look to understand the connection between environmental variables and their impact on behaviour.

But we don’t just study any behaviour. We study socially significant behaviours or those behaviours that have meaning for the client and for the client’s significant others (Cooper, Heron & Heward, 2007).

The ‘Applied’ aspect of Applied Behaviour Analysis means that we don’t just take what we have learned in the laboratory or the university and leave it there. It means that we take our research and put it into practice. It means that we apply what our research suggests as being effective and we use that knowledge in natural settings to benefit and improve the lives of our clients.

Specifically, we manipulate stimuli in the environment in a manner that has been reliably shown to have an impact on socially significant behaviours some of which are communication, self care, academic and social behaviours. 

The stimuli that we manipulate are called antecedents and consequences. Antecedents are stimuli that come before a behaviour has occurred and consequences are stimuli that occur immediately after behaviour has occurred.

A wide body of research indicates that ABA is an effective tool for teaching skills to youth and adolescents with autism and other developmental disabilities (Autism Speaks, 2012).

For more information on the research supporting Applied Behaviour Analytic Interventions, please see the research links on our useful websites page.