Applied Behaviour Analysis, or ABA, “is the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree, and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behavior“ (Baer, Wolf & Risley; 1968)

ABA is the applied form of behaviour analysis and is concerned with improving the lives of individuals in significant, meaningful and lasting ways. ABA employs the contingent use of reinforcement along with other behavioural principals to improve learning in specific domains, generalize learning across environments, and assist with developing alternative responses to situations that typically evoke negative reactions.

In 1987 Dr. Ivar Lovaas published a seminal research article outlining an early-intensive behaviour intervention (EIBI) for children on the autism spectrum that had promising results for the children in the study. He utilized the principles of behavioural science and applied them to teaching the children in the study, along with other parameters, that significantly improved the lives and abilities for most of the participating children. Since that time there have been a number of replication studies that have had similar positive results.

While ABA is well known within the field of interventions for children on the autism spectrum, it also has multiple applications in other areas of society and across a variety of fields Organizational Behaviour Management, or OBM, uses the principals of ABA to improve the individual and group performance, production, and safety in the work place. Behaviour Economics looks at the effects of multiple factors on one’s economic decisions and the implications of those decisions on the marketplace. Applied animal behaviour deals with the health and well being of animals in human care as well as animals in the wild. These are just a few of the common applications of ABA in society.

At the core ABA is a science. Empirically-validated evidence to support intervention decisions, data collection to ensure what you are implementing is having the desired effect, systematic reviews of procedures and applications, supervision of staff with evidence-based training procedures, and consistent adaption when what you are doing is not working. At the heart of ABA is the student. An individual who has the ability to learn, the right to learn in meaningful-to-them ways, the desire to be happy, the need to be loved, and the unconditional support of his or her family. As practitioners in ABA it is our job to ensure the core of ABA marries with the heart of ABA.

Some useful links for a more thorough understanding of ABA:

Autism Speaks
Association for Science in Autism Treatment
British Columbia Association of Behaviour Analysis
Autism Canada