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.

The research shows that ABA is most effective for children with autism when used intensively (30-40 hours per week). These programmes are also known as EIBI (Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention). However, 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 without the intensive programme. Child Autism UK offers both the intensive service and short term programmes to target specific needs.

Find out more about ABA programmes.

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.

More About ABA

There is a lot more information about ABA and how it can help families with autism. There are a number of scientific and practical studies you can read to find out more.

The following sources are also useful reading:

Personal Experiences of Autism and ABA

This book relates the personal experience of ABA from the perspective of a parent of a child with autism.

Let Me Hear Your Voice
Maurice, Catherine
Robert Hale, London (1993)

Treatment and Education Manuals

The following are manuals for those undertaking an intensive behavioural programme; packed with practical information on early intervention based on the principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis.

Behavioural Intervention for Young Children with Autism – A Manual for Parents and Professionals
Maurice, Catherine

A Work in Progress: Behavior Management Strategies & A Curriculum for Intensive Behavioral Treatment of Autism
Ron, Ph.D. Leaf, John McEachin, Jaisom D. Harsh

Teaching Individuals with Developmental Delays: Basic Intervention Techniques
Lovaas, O Ivar

Teach Me Language, A Manual for Children with Autism, Aspergers Syndrome and Related  Developmental Disorders
By Freeman, Sabrina and Dake, Lorelei
Different Roads to Learning (1997),

Note: This is designed for school age children and targets social language, general knowledge, grammar and syntax, functional knowledge, written expression and language-based academic concepts.

The following books give either more general information about ABA principles and techniques or focus on specific areas.

Applied Behaviour Analysis and Autism: Building a Future Together
Mickey Keenan (Editor), Mary Henderson (Editor), Ken P. Kerr (Editor), Karola Dillenburger (Editor), Gina Green (Foreword)

Steps to Independence, Teaching Everyday Skills to Children with Special Needs
Baker, Bruce & Brightman
Paul H Brookes Publishing Co

Covers toilet training, play, self-help skills, etc; provides task analysis for many skills.

Teaching Children with Autism: Strategies for Initiating Positive Interactions and
Improving Learning Opportunities
Koegel, Robert & Koegel, Lynn Kern
Paul H Brookes Publishing Co.

An overview of behaviourally orientated teaching techniques

ABA Theory

Understanding Applied Behavior Analysis: An Introduction to ABA for Parents, Teachers and Other Professionals
By Albert J. Kearney (Author)

Web Sources

Research Autism (EIBI section)

Wikipedia (ABA section)