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Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, is commonly misunderstood. Often, ABA is equated with certain specific practices within the field, such as Discrete Trial Teaching. In fact there are many interventions or practices that fall under the umbrella of ABA. Similarly, it is often assumed that ABA is only useful as an intervention for children with autism, when in fact it can be used to create positive behavior change in individuals with many types of disabilities, as well as those without disabilities. ABA encompasses a wide variety of interventions, including the following:

  • EIBI: Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (Autism)
  • DTT: Discrete Trial Teaching
  • OBM: Organizational Behavioral Management
  • FBA: Functional Behavioral Assessment
  • NET: Natural Environment Teaching
  • VB: Verbal Behavior (teaching language using Skinner’s Analysis of Verbal Behavior)

While ABA includes a wide variety of interventions, all share a few key characteristics, originally outlined by Baer, Wolf, and Risley in 1968. In order for an intervention to be considered behavior analytic, the following criteria must be met:

  • The intervention must address behaviors that are of social importance to the individual.
  • It must focus on skills that are observable and measurable.
  • It must be possible to demonstrate (through analysis of data) that the intervention has had a beneficial effect.
  • The intervention must involve procedures that are defined/described in a way that allows for consistent implementation by all involved.
  • It must be grounded in a conceptual system of fundamental behavioral principles (e.g., reinforcement) derived from decades of scientific study.
  • The intervention must lead to meaningful change for the individual.
  • The intervention must be designed to create behavior change that generalizes to new environments and situations.

(From Baer, D.M., Wolf, M.M., & Risley, T.R. (1968). Some current dimensions of applied behavior analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1, 91-97.)