Behavioral analysis is a natural science approach to study behavior. Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) is the application of learning and motivation to change socially important behaviors in meaningful ways. The treatment of autism is probably one of many areas in which behavioral analysis has been applied most frequently. Intensive behavioral intervention incorporates the principles of ABA and is initiated to solve problems of psychosocial significance. The effectiveness of the ABA principles and procedures has extensively been documented that aim to build a wide range of important skills and decrease or eliminate disruptive problematic behaviors in individuals with autism. A basic assumption behind these principles and procedures is that the consequences of a behavior can be strengthened or weakened by behavioral principles of learning; typically consist of reinforcement (Catania 1997).
Today, those behavioral principles of learning in ABA programming for learners with autism often emphasize the skills to be increased and problem behaviors (e.g. stereotypic behavior, aggression, poor attention) to be decreased and are defined and measured carefully by direct observation. An initial assessment is done to generate a list of skills that the learner does or does not possess. Treatment goals can be derived from that initial assessment and intervention procedures are founded on the listed skills in different domains (e.g. learning in classroom and performance outside school). Behavioral analytic procedures are then used to strengthen existing and not yet developed skills. The learner is explicitly arranged to learn and practice skills for a long enough period of time on a daily basis, with abundant positive reinforcement. It is important to note that engaging the learner in positive social interactions and make learning enjoyable is crucial.
Learner progress has to be measured frequently by direct observational measurement. All data collected are graphed to obtain a clear picture of any improvement in adaptive skills and extinction of certain maladaptive behavior targeted for treatment. The data are reviewed regularly by the behavior analysts responsible for directing the therapeutic intervention to spot any learning errors and adjust promptly if progress is not satisfactory. The behavior analyst should also ensure that learners show positive feedback to the treatment. As a potential candidate in the field of clinical psychology or counseling, I would like to master in these skills so as to provide the most comprehensive but highly individualized treatment package for learners with autism in my future career.
Catania AC. Learning. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall; 1997