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Applied Behaviour Analysis and Autism

ABA is an applied branch of behavioural sciences that has, over the past 60 years proven effective in developing tactics and strategies implemented across various fields. This includes evidenced based practices in early years, general and special education, health, business and organisations, gerontology and public health.


Its based on key principles foundational to scientific view (pragmatism, empiricism, experimentation, parsimony, replication, philosophical doubt) and it applies specific methodology to address socially significant areas of concern to the individual. The behaviour analytical view is that Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) is a syndrome of behavioural deficits and excesses that have a neurological basis but are nonetheless amenable to change in response to specific, carefully programmed, constructive interactions with the environment.


Behaviours targeted for change will be unique to each individual, however teaching functional communication is often a priority as it allows an individual to express preference, request for desired items and activities, and increase their social interactions with others.Communication is key to understanding the world around us and being able to learn and ensure our needs can be met."

ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis) refers to interventions that are developed from a branch of science called behaviour analysis.

ABA is much more than an intervention for children with autism. It can be used to help with anything from treating eating disorders to traffic control.

Behaviour analysts examine the causes and the consequences of behaviour. They then develop interventions based on this information.

One of the strengths of ABA for children with autism is that it can address every behaviour relevant to that child (both excesses and deficits). Behaviour Analysts are not distracted by the many different theories of the causes of autism  (along with their related treatments) and so have been able to steadily develop and refine their approach. Today’s modern ABA programmes look very different from those 20 years ago. ABA is now able to be much more flexible, functional and fun for the child.

Other ABA techniques e.g. PECS (picture exchange communication system), specific behaviour management techniques can also be very helpful on their own to target specific concerns. 

The Evidence

Behavioural interventions have undergone the most rigorous assessment compared with non-behavioural and eclectic approaches. There are many decades of research concerning the effectiveness of ABA in general and hundreds of more recent studies demonstrating the effectiveness of EIBI (Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention) with young children with autism.

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