What is Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA)? Does ABA work?

Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA)

What exactly is it?

  • a natural science that is interested in the relationship between the environment and behaviour
  • applies real science to real life 
  • is rich in research and evidence based practices 
  • can be used to increase socially significant behaviours 
  • can be used to decrease interfering/challenging behaviours that impact an individual’s quality of life. 

Did you know: ABA is focused on human behaviour so it can be applied to any environment where behaviour happens! This includes education, paediatrics, gerontology, disabilities, rehabilitation, addictions, organizational management, and so much more!   

Examples of how ABA can be applied in these settings:

  • ABA can be used to teach a child how to read and write
  • ABA can be used to increase employee’s compliance with health and safety procedures 
  • ABA can be used to help an individual take their medication regularly 

I have heard that ABA is very “robotic”. Is this true? 

Firstly, ABA therapy, just like any type of therapy, is a process. It requires systematic steps to ensure that progress is being made according to a treatment plan. It is also individualized, therefore each person receiving ABA therapy will learn skills at a different rate. 

Secondly, some individuals may require lots of repetition and opportunities in order to acquire or maintain skills. Other individuals may learn things more readily. Repetition and increased opportunities is often misunderstood/interpreted as “robotic”. This is not the goal. The goal is to provide multiple opportunities for a person to make a connection towards the desired behaviour. While some opportunities may seem very “unnatural” (e.g. we lay 3 items in a straight array on a cleared table), the goal is to eventually practice the same skills in natural environments. What started as pointing to 1 of 3 items in a straight array, translates into being able to walk into a bedroom to locate the item once taught at the table. The idea is to teach and master skills out of context, we can execute skills in context.

How can ABA help me or my child? 

  • Increase skills across domains including communication, social, play, academic, gross motor, fine motor, vocational, domestic/life skills 
  • Decrease behaviours that affect safety and health as well as those that interfere with opportunities for learning and developing relationships  

How does ABA therapy work and what is the process?

  1. Assessment: Assessments begin the process to determine the areas of need/areas of strength. As a result, we are able to:
    1. Assessments are used as “benchmarks” 
    2. These are tools that help determine what skills the child currently has/does not have in their repertoire 
    3. Some are normed based (compare the individual against their peers) or are skill based (only scores on the observed behaviour) 
  2. Planning/Goal Setting: After specific and individualized goals are selected after the assessment, an individualized plan is developed.
  3. Treatment: After the plan is developed, the individual and/or family will receive individualized teaching in any of the following formats including but not limited to:
    1. 1:1
    2. Small Group
    3. Parent coaching/training 
  4. Supervision: Most importantly, the treatment goals will be monitored on an ongoing basis for a set period of time by a qualified supervisor (for example, a BCBA).

How do I know ABA is working?

A few questions to consider if ABA is working are:

  • Does the behaviour change make a positive impact on you and/or your child’s life? In your family life?
  • Are you/Is your child learning skills that increase independence? 
  • Are you/Is your child less of a risk to themselves and others than in the past? 
  • Are you/Is your family learning to manage behaviours at home? In other environments?
  • Are you/Is your child demonstrating the skills they have learned in other environments? 

ABA can be used to increase socially significant skills and/or decrease undesired behaviours. Socially significant goals means those that will keep your child safe and healthy, help them become as independent as possible and ultimately achieve a good quality of life. Therefore, it is important that your ABA team works with you to understand your family values and cultural background to determine what goals are important to the family unit. 

Who can provide ABA therapy? 

It is important to understand the qualifications and training of the ABA professionals working with you and/or your child. The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) is an internationally recognized regulatory body that certifies and governs qualified professionals in behavior analysis. 

The BACB governs the following credentials:

  • Board Certified Behavior Analyst Doctoral (BCBA-D)
    • Professional with PhD 
    • May supervise the work of BCaBAs, RBTs, and other professionals who implement behavior-analytic services
    • Must pass the certification exam and requirements 
  • Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) 
    • Masters level professional
    • May supervise the work of BCaBAs, RBTs, and other professionals who implement behavior-analytic services
    • Must pass the certification exam and requirements 
  • Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst Doctor (BCaBA)
    • Graduate level professional
    • May supervise the work of BCaBAs, RBTs, and other professionals who implement behavior-analytic services
    • Must be supervised by a BCBA and/or BCBA-D
    • Must pass the certification exam and requirements 
  • Registered Behavior Technician (RBT)
    • Must be supervised by a BCaBA, BCBA and/or BCBA-D
    • Must pass the certification exam and requirements 

More information on the BACB can be found on their website: https://www.bacb.com/

Because of the lack of a regulating body and titled restrictions, there are many different names for ABA professionals in Ontario. These include:

  • ABA consultant 
  • Behaviour consultant
  • Senior Therapist/Instructor Therapists
  • Senior Behaviour Therapist/Behaviour Therapists
  • Behaviour technicians 
  • Behaviour facilitators 
  • ABA therapist

It is always important to determine the level of qualifications as well as experience in the field. Check out our staff qualifications here.

In April 2021, the Ontario Association of Behavioural Analysis (ONTABA) reported that if passed, Bill 283 would define the scope of Behaviour Analysis and provide title restrictions for Behaviour Analysts. Additionally, if passed, Behaviour Analysts would be established as regulated health professionals under an existing college(College of Psychologists of Ontario) renamed as the College of Psychologists and Behaviour Analysts of Ontario.

Is ABA covered by insurance? 

It could be. Some private health insurance companies may have specific Applied Behavior Analysis coverage. An alternative option is to use an “other health spending account” which some private health insurance plans may include. 

You can also check out our list of funding options by visiting www.alwaysconnectedtn.ca/resources

Want to learn more? Book a free consultation with one of our directors by emailing info@alwaysconnectedtn.ca.

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