What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) utilizes research-based principles of behavior in order to teach new skills through direct instruction, and to reduce challenging behavior through assessment and determination of its function (i.e. what is being gained or removed by engaging in the behavior). The principles of ABA provide the most effective methods for teaching individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities.

There is no predetermined “prescription” for treatment, as every child has a unique set of needs. ABA utilizes an individualized approach to instruction, which is one that focuses on determining socially significant skills to teach and challenging behaviors to reduce, which are defined through individual assessments. The methods in which new skills are taught are also developed via assessment, and tailored to the individual student. When teaching new skills, the goal is to always target socially significant skills while decreasing challenging behavior and replacing those challenging behaviors with appropriate functional alternatives. ABA works because of this individualized approach, but it is important to consider that it requires a high level of supervision and proficiency in the level of instruction that is being delivered in order to ensure effective implementation.

Those overseeing an ABA program should be Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) as credentialed by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. A BCBA should oversee the development of, and changes to, a student’s behavior program. These changes are made based on the progress of the individual via objective data collection and analysis. A BCBA has earned their certification by 1) completion of intensive coursework in Applied Behavior Analysis, 2) obtaining the minimum of a master’s degree in a human services field (i.e. – behavior analysis, psychology, special education, education), and 3) participating in extensive direct supervision and mentorship by a BCBA. Once certified, BCBAs must maintain their certification via the completion of 36 continuing education credit hours every 3-years.

At Hopeful Journeys, a team of BCBAs work in conjunction with on-site certified special education teachers, speech-pathologists, and occupational therapists to ensure that every student has a well-rounded and completely individualized program. The Hopeful Journeys team works to target a variety of skill areas for each student including academics, social skills, communication, reduction of challenging behavior, activities of daily living, and vocational skills. As a team, we strive to build a better future for each student, and their families, by helping them to reach their fullest potential and enabling them to live more productive and independent lives.