Applied Behavioural Analysis is a field of psychology and an approach based on applying learning theories to target specific behaviours and cognitive skills, and was the basis for the programs initiated by Ivor Lovaas to assist the development of children with Autism. Following Lovaas and for over 40 years, ABA has helped establish long lasting and significant improvements in communication, social interaction, cognition, independent living skills and play. Studies by Lovaas (1987) and McEachin, Smith and Lovaas (1993) have shown the effectiveness of ABA in addressing the developmental issues associated with ASD.
More recent research on early intervention, using ABA principles, replicates the above studies. Children who participated in intensive early intervention had better outcomes and meaningful changes in skills and development in many areas. Quality ABA programs address a wide range of skill areas, but the focus is always on the individual learner, therefore goals vary from learner to learner, level of functioning and family needs and interest.
ABA techniques and principles incorporate, discrete trial training, modelling, shaping and positive reinforcement. The basis for the programs is the attempts to understand the functions of behaviour and provide meaningful programs to support the child’s needs. It is also extremely important to note that a comprehensive ABA program should be practised and generalised in natural settings.