The ABA Breakdown
ABA is a structured, data-driven way to change behavior by looking at what is a reinforcing it. Behavior that is reinforced tends to be repeated, and behavior that is not reinforcer will disappear. The practice concentrates on antecedents (environmental situations that occur before the behavior) and consequences.
People often believe “consequence” is a negative term, but instead, think about it as what happens after a behavior. In ABA, we focus on the positive side of this principle to teach new skills and minimize other actions. One technique starts with a prompt, and when therapists get the responses they are looking for, they introduce a reinforcer to let the kids know it’s a good thing they want to see again…a high five, toy, snack or some other kind of praise.
Using ABA to teach consists of breaking down activities into smaller pieces in order to tackle larger goals. For example, to aim for teeth-brushing, it may start with just turning on the water, then removing the cap, putting the toothpaste on the brush, etc. rather than diving all in at once. For a long-term goal of participating in a regular education classroom, early beginnings might include objectives of parallel play and tolerance of sitting in a chair.
It may take a little longer for kids with autism to learn certain tasks that come naturally to others, often because their minds work in a different way. Our goal is to make sure we give them the attention and means to the same opportunities so they can reach their own goals.