Question 1: What is ABA?
ABA is an acronym that stands for Applied Behaviour Analysis; it is a scientific approach in which principles of behaviour are systematically applied to improve socially significant behaviours. Systematic manipulation is used to identify the variables responsible for behaviour change.
Question 2: How is ABA related to psychology?
ABA is a natural science, just like physics or biology, that explores the natural phenomena of human behaviour using measurable outcomes. ABA provides the data that informs a bottom-up approach constructing theories or explanations of the trends we see in nature based on actual observations.
Psychology is a social sciences, the study of human society and social relationships. This study of people is the main similarity between ABA and traditional psychology. However, other branches of psychology rely on a top-down philosophical approach - theories or explanations called hypothesis are written by one individual or a group of individuals, and then the theory is tested by measuring mentalistic constructs.
Question 3: I heard of this new therapy...how is ABA related to PRT? Or PECS???
ABA is the overarching science under which popular, trademarked interventions such as PRT, and PECS fall. In the same way Astrophysics is a type of Physics, Anatomy is a type of Biology, and Big Macs are a type of Burger; PRT, and PECS.
Various trademarked therapies have been marketed as the next best thing, the next cure, the next breakthrough. While this kind of branding ensures that practitioners have completed a minimum standard of training, it is important to acknowledge and appreciate the underlying laws of behaviour for when things don't go according to plan. An effective ABA practitioner, such as a BCBA, is able to draw from the full range of behavior change technologies available to affect change where others have been unsuccessful.
Question 4: Sounds great! How do you do that?
1. We analyze a situation objectively - in particular what the problem looks like, when it occurs, why it occurs.
2. We name and define very clearly the behaviours that we see.
3. We consult all individuals concerned - the person him/herself, their family, their caregivers, their teachers - to determine if these behaviours should be changed so that the individual can be happy.
4. We consult established literature in the form of curricula, behaviour checklists and developmental norms to determine any other behaviours that need to be taught.
5. We select scientifically based principles that have been shown to effectively change these target behaviours, i.e. increasing new skills and decreasing any unwanted behaviours.
6. We write a plan that can be easily understood and implemented by all individuals concerned.
7. We use lots of examples and work across lots of environments to make sure change is occurring anywhere the individual may be.
8. We take data to assess whether our intervention is working, reviewing and changing the intervention when necessary.
In this way, ABA is person-centered, individualised, evidence-based, accountable, efficient and incredibly effective.
Question 5: What does ABA look-like?
Taking all of the above points into account, ABA happens at any time, in any place, with any individual and during any activity where there is a need.