Using Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to Help Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder Succeed

 width=In a perfect teaching world, all of your students would display proper behavior all of the time. While that’s not possible, there are skills that can help you approach that nirvana. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) allows you to use basic principles of learning, analytical problem solving, and evidence-based strategies that are likely to lead to success. ABA focuses on observable events and responses rather than trying to guess what is going on inside a student’s mind.

Today, ABA is widely recognized as a safe and effective intervention for autism spectrum disorder. Your use of ABA can do more than affect student behavior. ABA has helped many different kinds of learners:

• Create healthier lifestyles.
• Master new languages.
• Acquire basic skills, such as looking, listening, and imitating.
• Hone more complex skills, such as understanding another person’s perspective.

ABC Analysis

The key to ABA is to use ABC analysis – Antecedent, Behavior, and Consequence – and watch to see whether a particular response increases or decreases in frequency. You can use ABC analysis to examine your own students’ behavior.

  • Antecedents – Examine the events that happened before the student behavior occurred.
  • Behavior – Ask yourself if your students know the expected behaviors.
  • Consequences – Consider what types of consequences are used to reinforce the behaviors you expect.

Using ABA Effectively

Though far more sophisticated teaching strategies may be involved, the basics of instruction are captured in these foundational procedures. To use ABA effectively, remember to consider:

  • Positive and negative reinforcement – Just because a particular consequence functions as a reinforcer for most people doesn’t mean it will be a reinforcer for all. Also, the more immediately a reinforcer follows a behavior, the more effective it will be.
  • Preference assessments – Conduct assessments early in the year to get to know your students. Understanding your students will help you determine which reinforcers will lead to success.
  • Punishment vs. extinction procedures – To decrease an unwanted behavior, always pair extinction or punishment procedures with reinforcement of an appropriate behavior.
  • Discrimination – An appropriate response is only appropriate under certain circumstances. It’s important to help a child discriminate when a particular response should be made.

By understanding and applying the principles of ABA, you become an effective educator, combining your love of your students and subjects with the skills to teach all students, regardless of ability or attitude.

Exceptional Child includes several online professional development courses designed to help educators effectively understand and use ABA strategies.

  • ABA Overview
  • ABA: Reinforcement and Discrimination Procedures
  • ABA: Shaping, Fading and Conditioning Reinforcers
  • Managing Challenging Behavior: Antecedent Strategies
  • Managing Challenging Behavior: Consequence Strategies

Click here to view the full course list.

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