What is ABA?
Applied Behavior Analysis is the science of studying behavior and applying data-supported techniques to increase and/or decrease behaviors that are meaningful to the client and the client’s social environment. The field of ABA seeks to:
o Define behavior in objective and measurable terms
o Examine the relationship between a behavior and its controlling variables
o Analyze socially significant behaviors that are in need of improvement
o Study behavior through a three-term contingency
Why do we use ABA?
ABA-based approaches for educating children with autism and related disorders have been extensively researched and empirically supported.
Application of behavior analytic strategies for treatment of children with autism is the most highly documented effective treatment. The Surgeon General of the United States of America noted that thirty years of research demonstrated the efficacy of applied behavioral methods in reducing inappropriate behavior and in increasing communication, learning, and appropriate social behavior in children with autism.
The following agencies state that ABA-based procedures represent the best practices for individuals with autism and mental retardation (Hagopian and Boelter, 2006):
o National Institute of Mental Health
o National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
o National Academy of Sciences (Committee on Educational Interventions for Children with Autism)
o American Psychological Association (Division 33; “Guidelines on Effective Behavioral Treatment for Persons with Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities”)
o Association for Science in the Treatment of Autism
o California Department of Developmental Services
o Florida State Department of Children and Families
o Maine Administrators of Services for Children with Disabilities
Current research demonstrates that an eclectic approach is less effective. Two studies (Svein Eikeseth and colleagues, 2002; Janet Howard and colleagues, 2005) have compared the use of ABA-based procedures to the use of ‘‘eclectic’’ treatment. At follow-up, the children receiving the non-eclectic applied behavior analysis program scored higher and had made more progress than the children in the other groups in areas of language, communication, social skills, independence, and reduction of problem behaviors.
What is verbal behavior programming?
Verbal behavior programming places focus on the principles of ABA and uses proven teaching procedures within the field of ABA based on:
o B.F. Skinner’s Verbal Behavior as a guide to the classification of language
o The application of Skinner’s work by Michael, Sundberg, Partington, Carbone, McGreevy, and others
o The following conceptual frameworks:
o Functional Assessment: Treatment of problem behavior is based on identifying the causes and consequences of behavior. By looking at what happens before and after a child demonstrates a behavior, it is possible to understand why a behavior continues to occur and to develop a plan to change the situation and thereby change the behavior.
o Motivative Operations: Careful attention is given to the environmental situations and actions of others that encourage or discourage a child in his or her learning and behavior.
o Matching Theory: The child’s learning is our responsibility, and we need to use teaching methods that promote cooperation and learning so that the child enjoys learning and wants to stay in the teaching environment with us.
o Functional Communication Training: Emphasis is placed on teaching the child to communicate effectively in his or her environment.
How does verbal behavior programming differ from "Lovaas Therapy"?
o Training is initiated by teaching functional communication-requesting (manding)
o Early skills are taught in natural settings (natural environment training)
o Utilizes different teaching procedures:
1. Pair teaching environments with reinforcement (make them fun)
2. Start with easy responses
3. Use errorless teaching (reduce the number of errors the child makes when learning)
4. Intersperse easy and difficult responses
5. Work quickly
6. Mix and Vary responses
7. Teach until fluent (the child can perform quickly and correctly)