What is Applied behavior analysis or ABA?

The field I work is called applied behavior analysis or ABA for short. I am sure many of you are wondering what exactly that is. Some people say we are a sub-set of psychology and we do have some connection to psychology but have become a separate to field of our own over the years. ABA is a science-based practice that believes in increasing or decreasing behavior based on how socially acceptable it is. It is a scientific approach to understanding why we behave the way we do. You will hear ABA is used the most with those with Autism or a developmental disability and with children. However, there is a whole part of the field that works with adults with developmental disabilities, work in schools with special needs and even work in the judicial system with those in juvenile detention centers or in the jail system. That is just to name a few different populations that ABA is used because honestly ABA can be used everywhere, in everywhere setting. Teachers and parents use techniques that are based in ABA a lot more than they realize they do. Ever use the statement “first this, then that”? Yep that is an ABA technique called the Premack principle or Grandma’s law. What about a token system? I am a huge fan of those and have made many throughout my career when I worked with adults with developmental disabilities. What about in daycares with token systems that allow a child to earn a star for sitting? That is an ABA technique. These are just examples of different way ABA is used in everyday life and we just do not realize it. When I got in the field it was kind of eye opening to realize how often I had used similar techniques in the past and did not know it was all a part of this field. Have you ever used something in your daily life whether with kids or work that may have been an ABA technique? Any kind of ABA technique that sounded interesting to you?

In ABA assessments are completed to understand the needs of the client. Once the needs are met a behavior support plan is written to address those needs. The behavior support plan can be to decrease problem behaviors such as aggression, verbal aggression, self-injurious behavior, property destruction etc. Basically, anything that would affect a client socially in a negative manner can be worked on. We can also work on increasing positive behaviors that are socially acceptable. For me, in working with kids that are under three, I work a lot on increasing eye contact, increasing joint attention, engaging appropriately with toys just to name a few. We figure out the function or reason behind the behavior occurring and use that as the basis for figuring out the proper techniques. For me, the fun part is observing and completing that assessment to understand a function. I love figuring out why a child is doing what they are and figuring out how to change it. I have done many assessments in the past when I worked with adults and written many behaviors plans as well as updated just as many. As fun as assessments can be, the best part, seeing my ideas actually work. Getting to see my client improve is such an incredible feeling and always made me so proud of the client.

If any of this sounds interesting then I would recommend checking out for more basic and technical information on the field. There are also some great podcasts like the Daily BA that talks about different important issues in the field. If you are on social media, they also have pages on FB, twitter, and Instagram. You can also search for ABA pages on the different social media sites, you will find a ton trust me. Also, check out Capella University for their ABA degrees as well as the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. I am an alumni of Capella university and cannot say enough good things about their master’s program, so I am going to assume their bachelors’ program is just as amazing. I am currently attending TCSPP and cannot say enough good things about their PhD in ABA program, so I am sure their bachelors and master’s programs just as amazing. Tell them Lisa sent you and I hope one day to be working alongside you in this field, making a positive impact on many different people’s lives.