Introductory Principles of ABA


This technical term means to break down a task into smaller more teachable components and to teach each component separately.

A discriminative stimulus is given (Sd)--the child responds (R)---a reward is given for a correct response (Sr)

An everyday example:

CHILD 1: What's your name? (Sd)

CHILD 2: Ben (R)

CHILD 1: Let's go play, Ben! (Sr)

This type of situation happens everyday however for children with autism there are frequently several skill deficients so that the child cannot or is not motivated to engage socially with other children.  Discrete trial training breaks down a skill into distinct discrete parts so that the weak areas can be strengthened and used effectively.


A behavior when followed by a reinforcing stimuli is more likely to increase over time.  Each child's reinforcement (items, activities) vary widely so all ABA programs should include a reinforcer assessment and these reinforcements should be reviewed often to capture changes in the child's preferences. Reinforcers are built on items or activities that are movitating to a child.  There are positive reinforcements which are presenting a desired item or activity and negative reinforcement when something already present is removed as a result of a behaviour and the behaviour that led to this removal will increase in the future because created a favorable outcome.

Example of negative reinforcement:

Mom places carrots on Jimmy's plate.

Jimmy screams

Mom eventually takes carrots off Jimmy's plate

Jimmy will now scream if he doesn't want carrots

Example of positive reinforcement:

Eddy does his homework

Mom praises him

Want to know more about ABA?

We have provided the following link to a video library for informational purposes only explaining some principles of ABA.  Please consult an qualified, experienced BCBA for an assessment before implementing any ABA principles.  

Once you follow the link there will be drop down boxes.  

Click "Autism & ABA" in the Industry box



Who is qualified to implement ABA?  

Just as a medical treatment program should be directed by a qualified medical professional, ABA programs should be created and supervised by a highly trained and experienced BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) that has the supervised experience providing ABA treatment for children with autism.  A BCBA has the board certification (Behavior Analyst Certification Board) which is required for a person to become a Behavior Analyst, and it is recognized worldwide.  In the field of ABA, this is the gold standard for professionals.  

Because of the huge demand for ABA intervention many individuals and programs now claim to provide ABA and unfortunately some who claim to offer ABA lack the field's established minimum requirements in education major and practical experience.

Beware of the misapplication of ABA.

What is the research behind ABA?  

Studies have demonstrated that many children with autism experience significant improvements in learning, reasoning, communication and adaptability when they participate in high-quality ABA Programs. In fact, research has shown that 47% of preschoolers have been able to be placed in regular classrooms with little or no additional support with 30 hours or more of therapy per week for two or more years. Although this is not a complete list of research please read through the many clinicals and studies linked at the bottom of this page for specific information.  

Furthermore, MADSEC compared many interventions with the conclusion that ABA was most effective.  It also lists interventions they believe can be harmful or without scientific validation of any kind (page 5 & 6).  Autism Task Force MADSEC.pdf

Even though statistics are impressive the research also shows that not every child will be able to be placed in their regular classroom without an aid however we provide quality therapy with the goal that every child reaches their full potential.

What is ABA?  

Applied Behavior Analysis is a scientific approach in which the principles of the analysis of  behavior are applied systematically to improve significant behavior and is used to identify the variables responsible for the change in behavior.  In other words, ABA takes the principles of behavior and uses it to bring about positive change (Applied); ABA defines behaviors in observable and measurable terms in order to assess change and define progress (Behavior); and ABA analyzes the behavior to determine what factors are influencing the behavior (Analysis). 

Emphasis is placed on reducing behaviors that are harmful or that interfere with learning while introducing and strengthening deficient skills by breaking them down into small easy to learn steps and building them systematically through repetition and positive reinforcement.