The ABC’s of ABA

The ins and outs of Applied Behavioral Analysis

Here at Children’s Therapy Connections, we pride ourselves on looking at the “whole child” and in assessing the connections at play between a child’s body and their brain. In 2017, CTC also recognized the connection between the therapies we offer and another form of treatment that took an even closer look at the mechanics of children’s behavior: Applied Behavioral Analysis, or ABA. As a result, ABA was added to CTC’s roster of services, and we were lucky to invite even more talented and insightful members to our team. This month, which includes World Behavior Analysis Day on March 20th, we take a closer look at ABA and highlight its origin, its key features and its benefits. Read on to learn more!


ABA Parent Education

This parent training book, with over 50 lessons and free downloadable worksheets, was created by a group of BCBAs who wanted to make their techniques more accessible in the home. A helpful tool for a parent on their child’s therapy journey.

Product: eggs!

It wouldn’t be an Easter newsletter without mentioning eggs! Pick a time to sit down as a family to decorate eggs and make some memories.

Quote of the Month

Spring: A lovely reminder of how beautiful change can truly be.

– Unknown

The Wide-ranging Benefits of ABA

How Applied Behavioral Analysis works to improve the lives of autistic children

What exactly is ABA? ABA is an acronym for Applied Behavioral Analysis, an approach that essentially seeks to understand and change behavior in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and a wide range of other diagnoses, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity (ADHD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In this way, it is also considered a form of behavioral therapy, which relies on the use of positive reinforcement to increase behaviors that are helpful and decrease behaviors that are harmful or that negatively impact an individual’s quality of life. In doing so, ABA can improve attention, learning, communication and social skills.

The term “applied behavioral analysis” was first published in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis when it was founded in 1968. A Norwegian-American clinical psychologist named O. Ivar Lovaas dedicated much of his life to developing the concepts of ABA and applying them in his sessions with his clients in order to improve the lives of autistic children and their families. He noted the improvements that many autistic children made through systemic instruction, and helped bring this method to education and clinic settings worldwide.

In the world of pediatrics and healthcare, ABA is typically covered by insurance only if a child has a diagnosis of ASD. ABA is provided in a variety of settings, including schools, private practice clinics, and even within homes and in the community.

ABA’s approach involves breaking down desired skills into smaller, manageable tasks and then using positive reinforcement to encourage the repetition of those behaviors. This method is rooted in the assertion that behaviors can be learned and unlearned through a systematic process of reinforcement and repetition.

When it comes to the benefits of ABA, many parents report improvements in the following areas:

  • Language and communication
  • Social interaction with others
  • Reduced tantrums and self-injurious behaviors
  • Enhanced attention and listening skills

Other highlights of ABA include the following characteristics:

Highly individualized

Like developmental therapies such as speech-language, occupational and physical therapy, ABA programs are tailored very specifically to each client, based on the child’s unique strengths, weaknesses and learning styles. Thorough assessments are typically conducted by a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) in order for appropriate goals to be created. Goals can range from improving communication and social interactions to reducing tantrums and self-injurious behaviors.


ABA relies heavily on data collection and analysis to track goals and progress. In tracking this progress, BCBAs are able to determine which strategies are effective at behavior modification and which ones may need to be modified or eliminated.

The Hoppiest Easter

Crafts to keep little paws busy

Toilet paper roll bunnies

Start saving those toilet paper rolls now! This easy craft only requires said cardboard roll, along with construction paper, pipe cleaners, googly eyes and mini pom-poms.

Easter Egg Rocks

Gathering rocks with your child can seem like an adventure to your little one in and of itself. Make it eggs-tra fun by painting them with fun designs to look like Easter eggs!

Pipe cleaner eggs

Add some flair to those plain plastic eggs and wrap pipe cleaner around each one to create a customized and stylish look. It’s also a great activity to target fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination!

A Collaborative Approach to Success

In this overview of ABA, parents of children who also receive speech-language, occupational and/or physical therapy may have noted that there are many goals of ABA that sound similar to what these disciplines target. For instance, goals focusing on improving language skills may be strikingly similar to speech-language goals, just as goals for reducing tantrums may mirror OT goals for sensory dysfunction. However, when one considers that behavior is embedded in both communication and sensory function, it seems less surprising that ABA would target these skills in their approach. This is where collaboration is critical to a child’s success.

Family Involvement

Parents and other caregivers are integral to the success of ABA programs. When instructed on techniques that are beneficial for their child, they are able to implement them at home and in the community in order to reinforce skills learned in their ABA sessions.

Therapy Alignment

A relationship-based approach to therapy—combining ABA with speech, OT and/or PT—can be highly effective for children with autism. Input from all experts lays a strong foundation for the child’s progress, and is built upon with good communication and teamwork.

School Integration

ABA is often integrated into school settings. To create a supportive learning environment, behavior analysts communicate closely with client’s teachers and support staff in order to provide insights on behavior and how it may be impacting their learning in the classroom. Ideally, these strategies are incorporated into the child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to provide comprehensive support.

The benefits that ABA can bring to children are vast. With ABA’s highly individualized approach, attention to detail, focus on positive reinforcement and collaboration with other therapies, parents often see incredible gains in their child’s ability to attend, follow directions, communicate with others and learn, among other skills. Through the dedication of trained professionals, the commitment of families, and the resilience of children with autism, progress is continuously at the forefront.

Content of this newsletter was written by:
Megan A. Miller, M.S., CCC-SLP

Please contact Megan with any questions or comments at: