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Alternative communication - ABA - Applied Behavior analysis

Skinner was the first to work on behaviorism and in 1974, Ole Ivar Lovaas pioneered the use of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) to treat autism.


ABA is a systematic process of studying and modifying observable behavior through a manipulation of the environment. It is comprised of an experimental approach to manipulating the environment and tracking alterations in behavior. This allows the discovery and manipulation of functional relationships between behavior and environmental variables.


The key aspects of ABA are:

  • observing current behavior for topography (what the movement looks like), frequency, antecedents and consequences
  • breaking down desired skills into steps
  • teaching the steps through repeated presentation of discrete trials
  • tracking performance data to show changes over time.


Among the available approaches to treating autism, ABA has demonstrated efficacy in promoting social and language development and in reducing behaviors that interfere with learning and cognitive functioning. The ABA approach teaches social, motor, and verbal behaviors as well as reasoning skills. ABA therapy is used to teach behaviors to individuals with autism  who may not otherwise "pick up" these behaviors spontaneously through imitation. ABA teaches these skills through use of behavioral observation and positive reinforcement or prompting to teach each step of a behavior. Generally ABA involves intensive training of the therapists, extensive time spent in ABA therapy (20–40 hours per week) and weekly supervision by experienced clinical supervisors known as a certified behavior analyst.


The different technics of ABA are :


- Chaining : The skill to be learned is broken down into small units for easy learning. For example, a person learning to brush teeth independently may start with learning to unscrew the toothpaste cap. Once the he or she has learned this, the next step may be squeezing the tube, and so on.

- Prompting : The parent or therapist provides assistance to encourage the desired response from the student. Prompts are faded systematically and as quickly as possible from a more intrusive prompt to the least intrusive prompt, with completely independent responding as the goal. Prompts include:

  • Verbal prompts—for example, "Take the toothpaste cap off" (Should be avoided when possible as verbal prompts are the hardest to fade);
  • gestural prompts—for example, pointing at the toothpaste;
  • Physical prompts—(often called spatial fading) involves fading from full physical (such as hand over hand) to hand on wrist, hand on elbow, hand on shoulder, shadowing, to fading your proximity; and
  • Modeling—for example, taking the cap off to show the student how it is done

- Fading : The overall goal is for an individual eventually not to need prompts. This is why the least intrusive prompts are used, so the student does not become overly dependent on them when learning a new behavior or skill. Prompts are gradually faded out as then new behavior is learned. Learning to unscrew the toothpaste lid may start with physically guiding the child's hands, to pointing at the toothpaste, then just a verbal request.

- Generalization : Once a skill is learned in a controlled environment (usually table-time), the skill is taught in more general settings. Perhaps the skill will be taught in the natural environment. If the student has successfully mastered learning colors at the table, the teacher may take the student around the house or his school and then re-teach the skill in these more natural environments.

- Shaping : Shaping involves gradually modifying the existing behavior into the desired behavior. If the student engages with a dog by hitting it, then he or she could have their behavior shaped by reinforcing interactions in which he or she touches the dog more gently. Over many interactions, successful shaping would replace the hitting behavior with patting or other gentler behavior.

- Differential reinforcement : it provides a response to the student’s behavior that will most likely increase that behavior. It is “differential” because the level of reinforcement varies depending on the student's response. Difficult tasks may be reinforced heavily whereas easy tasks may be reinforced less heavily. Therapists must systematically change the student's reinforcement so that he or she will eventually respond appropriately under natural schedules of reinforcement (occasional) with natural types of reinforcers (social).



More informations :


Creation date : 04/11/2007 · 19:13
Last update : 20/11/2007 · 11:54
Category : Alternative communication
Page read 9028 times

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