What Is ABA Therapy? How Does It Work?

Applied Behavior Analysis is a scientific approach to understanding behavior.

What Is Applied Behavior Analysis?

ABA therapy is a form of therapy that has been developed by experts. Applied behavior analysis is when a trained ABA therapist works one-on-one with a child with autism or other developmental delay. This is an important therapy with roots in many types of field including psychology, child development and education.

The therapist works with the child to teach them the kind of behaviors they need to know. Many of these skills focus closely on the process of learning skills that the child will need in order to become functional adults.

Children may be taught by the therapist how to get dressed on their own or how to cook for themselves. ABA therapist also focuses on other aspects of the child's behavior. They want to find ways to reduce problems the child has that can interfere with their ability to interact with others.

This therapy has been tested in real world settings. Therapists are required to follow certain procedures that can be applied to each of the patients they will be working with once they have completed their studies.

They are also required to earn a degrees in a related field and master a given body of material. The therapist must pass national exams and show they know how to perform the required therapy.

ABA therapy has a certain number of things in common with other types of therapies such as speech therapy and occupational therapy. It's a systemic approach that is deeply rooted in our understanding of modern science and how human behave, learn and grow.

Applied Behavior Analysis is a scientific approach to understanding behavior. Using research and evidence-based methods, Behavior Analysts and Technicians work together to help their clients ​:

  • Develop new skills
  • Refine previously learned skills
  • Decrease socially significant problem behaviors

ABA Therapy has been widely accepted as the foremost intervention for individuals with Autism.

What does an ABA therapy process look like?

A Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) will:

  • Analyze atypical behaviors
  • Identify the triggers that bring on each one
  • Outline a plan to change the child’s reaction to the trigger
  • Break down long term goals into achievable steps that, with the support of an RBT, will be
    Practiced →  Reinforced → Mastered

What Happens in an ABA Therapy Session?

Our clinicians invest in cultivating a good working and playful relationship with your child, though it may take some time until that goal is achieved. They deliver results by breaking goals down into teachable steps, and then building on them to make your child as independent as possible.

Your assigned therapist will be compassionate and friendly, focused on your child’s needs, skills, interests, preferences, and family environment. In each therapy session, your child will be engaged through enjoyable activities that integrate therapy goals.

Your child will also receive  feedback or reward to guide and reinforce the practiced skill. Finally, a skill worked on repeatedly can be integrated into a natural setting, such as playtime or daily routine.

ABA Therapy Examples

“Jimmy” is a vivacious, but non-verbal two-year-old with a head of unruly blonde curls, yet when Jimmy hears the sound of the hair trimmer, he is quick to escape. His ABA treatment plan includes the goal of allowing someone to cut his hair. Jimmy’s therapist outlines a sequence of steps to help him achieve this goal. His parents reported that his favorite toy is his yellow bugle, so each time he sits in the barber chair with the cape around his neck, he gets to hold his bugle.

Once he can do that step without protest, we introduce the sound of the hair trimmer. With much practice and consistent positive reinforcement, Jimmy can finally utilize this skill outside of the therapy setting and inside the barber shop.

Therapy goals emphasize skills that empower our clients with independence they will carry through their lives.


  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/aba-therapy
  2. https://www.autismspeaks.org/applied-behavior-analysis
  3. https://www.autismspeaks.org/blog/questions-and-answers-about-aba
  4. https://www.maximhealthcare.com/healthcare-blog/what-is-aba-therapy/
  5. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-is-applied-behavior-analysis
  6. https://online.regiscollege.edu/blog/aba-therapy-examples/
  7. https://www.crossrivertherapy.com/what-is-aba-therapy
  8. https://www.supportivecareaba.com/aba-therapy/what-is-aba-therapy

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