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Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy: Tips and Overview

Applied Behavior Analysis is a type of therapy that encourages desired behaviors through positive reinforcement and attempts, through interventions, to extinguish undesirable behaviors. Progress is tracked and measured.


This comprehensive guide delves into the fundamental aspects of ABA Therapy, explaining its principles, its mechanics, and what typically occurs during a therapy session. This guide serves as an informative resource, offering insights and support for those involved in the care and development of individuals benefiting from ABA Therapy.


  1. What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy?

  2. How Does ABA Therapy Work?

  3. What Happens During an ABA Therapy Session?

  4. What Can ABA Be Used For?

  5. How Effective is ABA Therapy?

  6. Tips for Choosing a Provider for ABA Therapy

  7. Free ABA Therapy Resources: Exceptional Needs Today

What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy?

What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy?


Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, is a type of therapy focused on redirecting or diminishing negative behaviors by using positive reinforcement and tracking behavioral occurrences. ABA therapy is considered the “gold standard” in autism treatment. 

How Does ABA Therapy Work?


The principles of ABA focus on positive reinforcement to improve specific skill deficits and discourage undesirable behaviors. A plan is developed by a board-certified behavior analyst and is carried out across a variety of settings. The board-certified behavior analyst will be fully trained in ABA and will be the person creating your child’s behavior plan.

Positive Reinforcement


Positive reinforcement is used in applied behavior analysis to encourage positive behavior. The reinforcement is given each time positive behavior is exhibited. This could be something like a sticker, tablet time, or a preferred activity. 


Antecedent, Behavior, and Consequence


Antecedent is a term used to describe the event or stimulus that occurs immediately before a negative behavior. Observing what precedes the behavior can help to uncover the motivation. The consequence is what happens after the behavior. This is called the ABC Model and is used to help behavioral therapists create a Behavior Plan. 


What Happens During an ABA Therapy Session?


ABA therapy can be conducted in a school, clinical, or home environment. It is meant to be carried across all settings in a child’s daily life. In an ABA session, a clinician will engage with the child, observe, and document behaviors, antecedents, and consequences. 


Using this information, the BCBA will create a behavior plan meant to encourage positive behavior and extinguish negative behaviors. They will continue this while tracking the occurrence of the behavior. 


Having a behavior technician will give you the best chance of success if they can connect with your child, so the first few days might just be them connecting. Knowing that a behavior technician is not the same as a personal care aide or paraeducator is essential. Each of these people has different roles in a child’s daily routine. 

What Can ABA Be Used For?


Who benefits from ABA? Well, ABA is a behavior intervention that can be used for anyone and focuses on positive reinforcement. It is currently used to assist children who struggle with symptoms of autism, ADHD, intellectual disabilities, developmental delays, and behavioral issues, but it has been proven a successful behavior therapy for everyone. 


ABA Interventions for Autism


ABA is used for people with autism to help develop skill deficits, encourage positive behaviors, increase focus, and decrease negative behaviors. Some interventions might be to ignore unwanted behaviors and reward positive behavior with a preferred task or reinforcement. 


How Effective is ABA Therapy?


ABA is considered to be a “best practice.” This is because it relies on evidence-based results. All behaviors, reinforcements, and consequences are tracked, and the effectiveness is used to guide the next steps in the behavior plan. As such, the results can be seen in real-time, and changes can be made to create a more effective plan.


At What Age is ABA Most Effective?


ABA is most effective when it is begun early in life. The sooner ABA therapies are started, the better impact they will have. This is why early intervention is so important. However, this should not prevent you from starting ABA at whatever age you become aware of its need. 


ABA and controversy


ABA has come under scrutiny, especially by many who have undergone the therapy in its early inception. A lot of this is due to older practices concerning ABA and the more prevalent use of “negative consequences,” as well as a previously ill-conceived idea that autism was to be “fixed.” 


Now we know that neurodiversity is just another way that our brain works and ABA is meant to assist individuals in navigating their world with more success. Having said this, it is important to know that you feel comfortable with your behavior team. Goals and plans should be geared towards your child and their needs. 

Tips for Choosing a Provider for ABA Therapy


When choosing an ABA provider, consult with your doctor and ask for referrals. Your local Arc will be able to provide you with a list of ABA resources. Connect with parent groups and listen to other parent’s experiences. Ask about staffing and meet with the clinicians and therapists. It is also essential to know how many board-certified behavior analysts they have on staff. Your child will work with the behavior technician daily, so knowing your child is comfortable with them is extremely important. You can request a different technician if you feel there are any issues.

Free ABA Therapy Resources: Exceptional Needs Today


For free resources on managing diagnoses, mobility, and accessibility support, self-advocacy, personal rights, educational rights, occupational therapy, mental health support, schools and camps, transitioning to adulthood, job opportunities, financial planning, supporting the family/caretakers, subscribe to Exceptional Needs Today. Subscribing to our award-winning e-magazine is free, and it enables us to connect with more readers, helping us support the special needs community more effectively. We publish a new issue every quarter - delivered straight to your email.

Exceptional Needs Today magazine is an award-winning different abilities publication that supports working together to promote awareness, acceptance, and inclusiveness for ALL. Visit our other articles for useful information about

  1. Autism

  2. ADHD

  3. Down Syndrome

  4. Dyslexia

  5. Intellectual Disability

  6. Speech Delay

  7. Developmental Delay

  8. Early Intervention

  9. Occupational Therapy

  10. Individualized Education Program (IEP)


Katie Foley is an advocate for The Arc of Northeastern Pennsylvania (, where she runs Sibshop, creates and presents content and trainings focused on assisting others in advocating for themselves or their loved ones and assists in individual advocacy in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Her education is in communications with a focus on theater, and she has a secondary degree in elementary education. 

She also enjoys teaching an Acting class for Adults of all abilities that focus on socialization and emotional understanding through Acting techniques. She has written You May Never Be French, a children's book that looks at autism through a cultural lens.

Katie has also written and contributed to other children's books and has been a contributing author for Autism Parenting Magazine and a guest blogger for other nonprofits. She is on the Family Advisory Board for Community Cares Behavioral Health in Pennsylvania and a founding board member of The Art's Alliance in Carbondale, Pennsylvania. Katie also enjoys volunteering for Equestrian Special Olympics; however, she is most grateful for her role as a parent of exceptional children who teach her new things about herself and life daily.

How Does ABA Therapy Work?
What Happens During an ABA Therapy Session?
What Can ABA Be Used For?
How Effective is ABA Therapy?
Tips for Choosing a Provider for ABA Therapy
Free ABA Therapy Resources: Exceptional Needs Today
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