This lesson covers:
BCAT A-9: Knowledge of research regarding treatment intensity
BCAT A-10: Knowledge of early intensive behavioral intervention research
BCAT A-11: Knowledge of foundational autism research
BCAT A-12: Distinguishing between evidence-based interventions vs. nonevidence-based interventions
BCAT B-14: Antecedent
BCAT B-15: Behavior
BCAT B-16: Consequence
BCAT B-17: 3-term contingency
BCAT B-18: Stimulus
BCAT B-21: Response
BCAT C-25: Teaching joint attention skills
BCAT C-26: Teaching play skills
BCAT C-27: Teaching motor skills
BCAT C-28: Teaching adaptive and safety skills
BCAT C-29: Teaching social skills
BCAT C-30: Teaching cognition skills
BCAT C-31: Teaching executive function skills
BCAT C-32: Teaching academic skills
To understand what applied behavior analysis is, you must first understand behavior analysis. Behavior analysis is the science of behavior based on principles of learning studied extensively by B.F. Skinner. There is often a lot of confusion about various terms used in treating individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), so it is important to start by explaining exactly what ABA is.
We can help people to learn positive behaviors that will help them. We can also prevent people from learning behaviors that are harmful or problematic. Understanding behavior allows us to change behavior.
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is the application of the “principles of behavior” to issues that are socially important, in order to produce practical change.
During this training, you’ll learn about many principles of behavior such as reinforcement, generalization, and extinction, and how applying these principles can be used to effectively teach individuals with ASD.
ABA works by changing behavior. Individuals can learn new skills, behave in more effective ways, and replace problematic behaviors with ones that are more successful.
The core principles of ABA are that the consequences that follow a behavior determine whether that behavior will increase or decrease.
ABA is the application of these principles to real-life issues in order to change behaviors and improve lives.
So we have talked about ABA and that the focus of ABA is to teach behaviors that have social significance or that are socially significant to the individual. What exactly does this mean? Socially significant means that we're picking behaviors that are going to be meaningful and important for that particular individual.
So we need to look at each person on an individual basis and try to figure out, for you, what are going to be the most important things for you to learn? And this is going to depend greatly on the individual strengths and weaknesses of each person, their age, the surrounding environment and the environment that they're living in on a daily basis. All the individual factors are going to help us determine what is socially significant for this particular individual.
And so somebody who is in an ABA program that is 2 years of age is most likely going to have skills that are different in terms of what's socially significant than somebody who is 22 years of age.
So an ABA program needs to identify what is going to be the most important for you and not just follow a typical learning progression that everybody goes through, but try to identify individual targets that are going to make that program socially significant and try to produce behavior change that's going to be meaningful and help that person actually succeed better in their individual circumstance.
We have several ways to apply the principles of behavior to socially significant behaviors. The principles of ABA are applicable to many other socially important areas other than the treatment of ASD.
Some applications of the principles of applied behavior analysis include
By using ABA as an intervention for ASD, we can address skill deficits. This is the Skill Repertoire Building component of our program.
Some skill deficits we can address include
Some behavior excesses we can address include
Research has demonstrated that early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI) produces many meaningful outcomes for children diagnosed with ASD. EIBI is a treatment directly based on the principles of applied behavior analysis. Ivar Lovaas conducted a study in 1987 that used behavioral interventions for children under the age of four diagnosed with ASD. This study demonstrated that almost half of the participants (9 out of 19) who received early and intensive behavioral treatment (40 hours per week for at least two years) were successfully included in regular education programming with their peers by first grade as well as showed significant gains in their IQs (Lovaas, 1987).
EIBI and various other approaches, such as eclectic developmental programs, autism programming, and generic programming, have been compared with ABA showing significantly greater improvements in language, communication, and social interaction domains as well as larger increases in IQ and adaptive functioning (Cohen, et al, 2004; Eikeseth, et al., 2007; Zachor, et al., 2007; Howard, et al., 2014).
The greatest effects are achieved with early participants (under four years of age) and intensive treatment (between 25-30 and up to 40 hours per week) that is long term (two or more years) (Linstead, et al., 2017). Additionally, with EIBI these skills and knowledge gains are more likely to be maintained across time.
Research has also shown that both treatment duration (how long the individual receives EIBI) and intensity (how many hours per week the individual receives EIBI) have a significant effect on curricular domains, such as academic, adaptive, cognitive, executive function, language, motor, play, and social. This was found to be true across a variety of ages, meaning that not only young children diagnosed with ASD can benefit from EIBI. While greater treatment gains have been found with younger children, research has also shown that older children with ASD also significantly benefit from intensive ABA therapy.
It is important to note that ABA is evidence-based, meaning that there is sufficient evidence in the research to support its use. In applied behavior analysis, our interventions are research-based and use the basic principles of behavior analysis (such as reinforcement). We do not support treatments and interventions that do not have extensive research to demonstrate their effectiveness.
In 1968, Baer, Wolf, and Risley defined dimensions or core principles of applied behavior analysis. One of these dimensions, conceptually systematic, specifies that our interventions are derived from the basic principles of behavior from the literature. This means that they are research-based and evidence-based practices and not a “collection of tricks.”
"GET A CAB" is an acronym to help you remember the seven dimensions of applied behavior analysis.
ABA uses precise terminology that often sounds like a different language when you first hear it. Here are some of the key terms that you will use:
Behavior refers to anything a person says or does.
EXAMPLEsaying “Hi," or asking “What time is it?”
EXAMPLErunning, jumping, crying, or playing.
Stimulus (plural stimuli) is defined as any physical object or event that an individual can see, hear, smell, touch, or taste.
EXAMPLEa ball, a cookie, or a loud noise
Environment refers to all of the observable and unobservable events and stimuli that affect the behavior of an individual.
EXAMPLEAn individual's environment may include any physical items present (people, toys, furniture), sensory stimulation (noise, temperature, lights), and feelings, thoughts, and motivation.
Response is a particular occurrence or instance of a behavior.
EXAMPLEsaying “Hello” when someone waves
EXAMPLEsneezing because of pollen in the air
Three-term contingency is a method used within ABA to understand, predict, and change behavior. It consists of three primary components:
So let's talk about the three-term contingency for a moment. In operant conditioning, we come to understand behavior by looking at what comes before it in the environment and what happens immediately following that behavior. So we look at the behavior and its interaction with things going on in the environment. And that gives us really important information regarding why that behavior is occurring.
So we break it down into three steps or three parts, basically. So we have A, which is the antecedent. And that really refers to anything that is happening immediately before the behavior occurs. Then we have the behavior itself, which is the behavior that we're interested in. And then we have the consequence. And the consequence represents anything that happens immediately following that behavior.
So we can come to understand and also better predict what behavior may do depending on the type of consequence that it encounters. So if I engage in a behavior and something good happens-- so I receive a positive consequence, so something that I find enjoyable or pleasant-- then chances are that behavior is going to increase in the future. So if something good happens, that behavior is likely going to increase in the future.
And the opposite is also true. So if I engage in a behavior and something bad happens-- so there's some type of negative consequence that I don't enjoy or that's maybe even a little punishing for me-- chances are what's going to happen to that behavior is it's going to decrease over time.