A Comprehensive Guide to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is a type of behavioral intervention that is often used to address difficulties in communication, socialization, and behavior in children with developmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is a scientific approach to understanding and changing behavior, with the goal of increasing desired behavior and decreasing challenging behavior.

ABA therapy is based on the idea that behavior is learned and can be shaped through positive reinforcement, repetition, and consistent coding of behavior. This means that ABA therapy focuses on teaching new skills and positive behaviors, while also working to eliminate negative or harmful behaviors.

The Origins of ABA Therapy

ABA therapy was first developed in the 1960s by Dr. Ole Ivar Lovaas, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Dr. Lovaas’s early work focused on using ABA techniques to teach language and communication skills to children with autism.

Dr. Lovaas’s groundbreaking research demonstrated that ABA therapy could be highly effective in improving behavior and learning in children with autism, and his methods became the foundation for modern ABA therapy.

How ABA Therapy Works

ABA therapy focuses on identifying specific and measurable goals for a child’s behavior, then using positive reinforcement to encourage and reinforce desired behaviors. ABA therapists use a variety of techniques and strategies to teach new skills and behaviors, including errorless teaching, prompting, shaping, and fading.

Errorless teaching involves giving the child step-by-step instructions to perform a task, so that they are less likely to make errors. Prompts are used to gently guide the child towards the desired behavior, while shaping involves breaking down a complex behavior into smaller, more manageable steps.

Fading involves gradually reducing the amount of support provided to the child, as they become more proficient in the targeted behavior. For example, an ABA therapist may start by prompting a child to say “please” before requesting a toy, but gradually reduce the amount of prompting as the child becomes more confident and independent.

Types of ABA Therapy

There are several different types of ABA therapy, each of which is suited to different goals, settings, and individual needs. The most common types of ABA therapy include:

Discrete Trial Training (DTT)

DTT is one of the most widely used ABA techniques, and involves breaking down a complex behavior into smaller parts, which are then taught using a series of structured trials. Each trial involves presenting a cue or instruction, and then providing reinforcement if the child responds correctly.

Natural Environment Training (NET)

NET takes place in a natural setting, such as a child’s home or school environment, and involves teaching skills and behaviors through natural interactions and activities.

Incidental Teaching

Incidental teaching involves teaching skills and behaviors as they occur naturally in the child’s environment, and using positive reinforcement to encourage and reinforce learning.

Behavioral Momentum

Behavioral momentum involves teaching a series of easy tasks, before gradually introducing more challenging tasks. This approach helps to build momentum and increase the child’s confidence and motivation.

Benefits of ABA Therapy

ABA therapy has been shown to be highly effective in improving behavior, communication, and socialization in children with developmental disorders such as autism. Research suggests that early intervention using ABA techniques can lead to significant improvements in cognitive ability, language development, and adaptive behavior.

ABA therapy can also help to reduce challenging behaviors such as tantrums, aggression, and self-injury, and can improve a child’s ability to interact with others and participate in daily activities.

How to Find an ABA Therapist

If you think that ABA therapy may be a good option for your child, the first step is to talk to your child’s pediatrician or a developmental specialist. They can help you to determine if ABA therapy is right for your child, and how to go about finding a qualified therapist.

ABA therapists typically have specialized training and certification in ABA techniques, and may work in a clinic, school, or home setting. They may work independently, or as part of a team that includes other healthcare professionals such as speech therapists or occupational therapists.


ABA therapy is a highly effective and scientifically based approach to improving behavior and learning in children with developmental disorders such as autism. By identifying specific and measurable goals, using positive reinforcement to encourage desired behaviors, and teaching new skills using a variety of techniques and strategies, ABA therapists can help children to reach their full potential and improve their quality of life.


FAQs about ABA Therapy

What is ABA Therapy?

ABA Therapy, or Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy, is a type of therapy that applies the principles of behaviorism to help individuals with autism spectrum disorder develop and improve skills in communication, social interaction, and behavior. It involves breaking skills down into small steps and using positive reinforcement to teach the desired behavior.

At what age should ABA Therapy begin?

ABA Therapy can be effective at any age, but research shows that early intervention is important for better outcomes. Ideally, ABA Therapy should begin as soon as autism is diagnosed, but it can still be effective in older children and adults.

Is ABA Therapy covered by insurance?

Many insurance plans cover ABA Therapy, but it depends on the individual plan and the state you live in. Some states have laws requiring insurance companies to cover ABA Therapy, while others do not. It’s important to check with your insurance provider to see what services are covered and what the limitations may be.


1. American Psychological Association. (2019). What is ABA therapy?. https://www.apa.org/autism/aba-therapy

2. Granpeesheh, D., Tarbox, J., & Dixon, D. R. (2009). Applied behavior analysis: evidence-based treatment for autism spectrum disorders. Pediatric clinics of North America, 56(1), 131-47. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pcl.2008.10.005

3. Reichow, B., & Wolery, M. (2009). Comprehensive synthesis of early intensive behavioral interventions for young children with autism based on the UCLA young autism project model. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 39(1), 23-41. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-008-0596-0